Category Archives: God’s Strength & Character

Safe Shelters

refuge-under-your-wingsIn my blog two weeks ago, I wrote about Yeshua as the Door of the sheep, and how He protects from us from all dangers.  Another closely related Biblical concept is that YHVH shelters us, but how does He shelter us?  In many places in the Psalms, David talks about YHVH sheltering us in His hiding place, for example:

  • Psalm 91:1 – He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty [El Shaddai].
  • Psalm 27:5 – For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His sanctuary; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me (the Orthodox Jewish Bible says that He will keep us safe in His Sukkah and shelter us in His tent)…He is our refuge and our fortress;
  • Psalm 32:7 – You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance;
  • Psalm 119:117 – You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word;
  • Psalm 144:2 – My lovingkindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield and the One in whom I take refuge

Other scriptures speak about God sheltering us in His high tower, on a rock that is higher than us, or in his fortress, just to name a few of the graphic images He paints.  Many times David and others speak about YHVH as not only keeping them safe in His secret hiding place, but as actually being that hiding place, refuge, fortress, high tower, stronghold, rock, sanctuary, Sukkah, etc.  As an illustration of a high / strong tower, Sh’lomo says in Proverbs: the name of Yehovah is a strong tower; and the righteous run to it [Him] and are safe.  Now we are getting to the purpose of YHVH sheltering us in all these amazing ways: He is keeping us safe from the enemy.  Psalm 32:7 above provides one of the most beautiful word pictures of God’s protection in all of Scripture: He is not only our hiding place, but He protects us from trouble and surrounds us with songs of deliverance.

In Psalm 91, David says that no evil will befall him because he has made YHVH his refuge and dwelling place.  Because David is abiding under the shelter of His wings, YHVH has promised to give His angels charge over David to keep him safe against all physical and spiritual enemies and attacks.  In Verse 14, He says that because we know and trust in His name (Yehovah), He will set us up on high places (a high rock, high tower, etc.).  He also promises that no evil will befall us, no plague will come near our dwelling, and we do not need to fear the arrows by day or the pestilence that comes in the night.  Finally, in Verse 7 He paints an even more vivid picture of how he delivers us in the middle of great battles: “Though a thousand fall at our side and ten thousand are dying around us, these evils will not touch us” (NLT).

Even from the beginning, God has always been there to shelter us and keep us safe.  When He created the Garden for Adam and Eve, He created it as an enclosed garden that was protected on all sides against enemies.  The meaning of the “Garden of Eden” [Gan Eden] from Hebrew is a sheltered or enclosed garden.  There are many examples of how God has provided for our protection in His creation. For instance, the way an eggshell protects the baby chick as the strongest shape in the world, or the way a mother’s womb protects her unborn baby against environmental dangers.

When God saved Noah and his family from the flood, He once again protected them with an Ark that provided their covering and protection from all the devastation that was going on around them.  Another example of YHVH’s protection was the lamb’s blood covering He told the Israelites to apply to their doorposts to protect them from the angel of death.  In the end times, YHVH’s remnant will be sheltered in the protective rocks of Petra (Bosrah in Hebrew), waiting for our King, Messiah Yeshua, to come and usher us into the homeland of Israel.

As you think about all the ways YHVH protects and shelters us in His fortress or high tower, think about the Hebrew letter “tet”, which in the ancient word pictures represented a shelter for protection.  It is used in the word beten to mean the house that surrounds life (the mother’s womb), and in the word for trust (batach), which pictures us being safe inside the surrounding fence.  The word seter means a hiding place or covering, and from the ancient word pictures it literally means a secret hiding place.  Whereas the word for adversary (satan) means the snake that devours life, YHVH provides the seter hiding place which protects us from evil.  Would you rather be under YHVH’s wings which protect your life from harm, or the enemy’s snake-coil which devours your life?

Oh the Depth of God !

God's love has no limitWhy do we want to limit God?  I have often heard it said that we should not limit God, but what does that really mean?  Recall the time in the wilderness when God was grieved because His people forgot how He had done many signs and wonders to protect and deliver them from Pharaoh and his army.  In Psalm 78, David tells us how the Israelites provoked YHVH by their sin and disobedience, but how YHVH loved them so much, that whether they turned back to Him or not, He would be divinely forgiving and gracious to them.

What grieved YHVH the most was not so much their sin or disobedience as their lack of trust in Him.  They had forgotten all that He had done for them.  He always had their best interest in mind.  YHVH was saddened that His people limited Him: “Again and again they turned back and tested God, and imposed limits on the Holy One of Israel” Psalm 78:41.  What they had forgotten was that no matter how far they strayed from Him and how many times they grieved Him by their sins, He was always merciful to them and forgave and blessed them.

When I think about YHVH as a limitless God who has no beginning and no end (Rev 1:8; 4:8) and who never changes (Mal 3:6, I Sam 15:29), I think about the times in my life that I have meditated on these attributes of God.  When I was a young child, I would lay on my back watching the clouds float by, thinking about how huge the universe was.  Even at a young age, people had told me that God was infinite, that He existed before anything in the Earth or heavens was made, and that He had no beginning.  I could not wrap my mind around the concept that God had no beginning and that He had always existed, before anything in the universe was created.

Knowing about God and His divine attributes intellectually is one thing, but it’s not the same as knowing God personally.  Even now as an adult, I cannot fully understand our God (Yehovah) who has always existed and always will.  But I do not believe YHVH intends for us to understand everything about Him, since He tells us in Isaiah 55:9 – “..just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts”.

At this point, you may be thinking that God is so far beyond us that understanding Him is impossible, and relating to Him in any meaningful way is an insurmountable goal.  We know through Scripture, though, that YHVH has given us the opportunity to have a personal relationship with Him, and that as we draw closer to Him, He will reveal things to us that can help us understand Him better and expand our limited thinking and expectations.  In James 4:8, right after he says to submit to God and resist the devil, he tells that if we draw near to God, then He will draw near to us.

Although we are limited and He is limitless, if we draw near to Him, YHVH will reveal great things to us: “But as it is written:Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of people the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit“ (I Cor 2:9-10).  Notice in this passage that it is God’s Holy Spirit who reveals His secrets to those who love Him.  This tells me that we cannot understand the deep things of God in the flesh / physical realm, but only in the Spiritual realm.  As we age in spiritual maturity in YHVH’s kingdom, we learn to draw closer and closer to God by spending time with Him and listening to the voice of His Spirit.

At the same time we understand our limitations and God’s limitlessness, we know that YHVH desires us to seek knowledge and wisdom from Him.  In Jeremiah 29:13, He tells us: “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart”.  This is the essence of our walk with YHVH – when we seek Him with our whole heart, we will find Him, and He will reveal His incredible secrets to us as He desires.  Seek this type of relationship with your Creator and Lord and He will give you an abundant life that is so full of wonder and miracles you will not be able to contain them within yourself.

What would you do if you were God (Part 5)

LORD is good“Throughout the earth the story is the same— only a remnant is left, like the stray olives left on the tree or the few grapes left on the vine after harvest.” Isaiah 24:13 [NLT]

In the previous installments of this series on God’s ways, I discussed why YHVH does things the way He does and why His plan seems so odd to us sometimes but is actually the perfect plan for our lives.  In this final blog of the series I want to look into the future and see why He has prophesied and planned out such a seemingly bizarre sequence of events for the end of this age.

From our limited human perspective, it may seem odd that the Creator of this universe would aim to judge His creation by destroying a large portion of it through catastrophic events.  Let us look in more detail at a sampling of His end-time prophecies which are spread across many of the minor and major prophets in addition to the book of Revelation.  When researching a news story, we try to answer the four “w” questions: who, what, when, why.  The “How” question is not so important to us when it comes to Abba‘s future plan, as we do not really need to know how He will perform His will, but rather how we fit into it and what we should do to prepare ourselves.

The “When” question is also not critical to us, as we have no control over it anyway, and we need to be spiritually prepared, whether the events start to play out over the next few years, further into the future, or beyond our earthly lifetime.  Yeshua said that no person would know the day or hour of the end time, not even the angels in Heaven, so we should not waste time speculating about the timing of these events (Matt 24:36).  The explanation of “What” is going to happen in the final days is somewhat more important to us, but mainly from the perspective of discerning the signs of the end times, as Yeshua outlined in Matthew 24-25.  If we get too concerned with answering the “When” and “What” questions (such as being drawn into the pre-Trib Rapture belief), then we can easily miss the more crucial truths of Yeshua’s message.

In Luke 18:8, He asks “when the Son of man returns, will He find faith in the Earth?”  Why is our Creator and Savior questioning the faith of His saints?  In Matthew 24:12, He goes on to say that “iniquity will abound and the love of many will grow cold”.  This agrees with statements in 2 Thessalonians and Daniel that speak of the Tribulation period and the 3 ½ year reign of the anti-messiah, when there will be a great falling away and the “antichrist” [anti-messiah] will be revealed.  Daniel says in his end-times prophecies that the anti-messiah will “wear out the saints of the Most High” (Dan 7:25) and “scatter the power of the holy people” (Dan 12:7).  In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Sha’ul says “that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed”.

So how can we as Abba’s children keep our faith and not grow weary from the enemy?  I believe Revelation 12:11 provides us a good answer, as this passage explains how the saints persevered to the end during the Tribulation: “And they overcame him [HaSatan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death”.  YHVH wants our love and devotion to Him more than anything else – we need to walk with Him constantly and keep trusting Him every step of the way in our lives.

Many of the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Malachi, etc.) speak of the believing remnant that will be preserved by YHVH in the latter days to dwell with Him in the Millennial Kingdom.  One of the key underlying themes of Isaiah (e.g. Isa 10:20-22, 11:11-16, 24:13, 27:32, 66:20) is that of the judgment of Israel overall as a nation and people, but the protection and restoration of a small remnant of YHVH’s faithful children (both Jew and non-Jew) to dwell with Him in His eternal Kingdom.  A particularly meaningful passage is located in Malachi:16-18.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said. In His presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared Him and honored His name. They will be My people, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. On the day when I act in judgment, they will be My own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient child. Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”

This passage provides us a window into YHVH’s own heart, which is what we desire as His people in relationship with Him.  It shows us that He loves us all, but He especially desires to keep track of the names of those who truly love Him with all their hearts (fear Him & honor His Name).  He wants to draw them near to Him as His special treasure, and preserve them for the last days, when He will reign on the Earth in the person of Yeshua HaMashiach.  When we look at YHVH’s heart from His perspective, we see His overwhelming love for His children, keeping us safe until He can bring us home into His eternal Kingdom.  How could we ever desire or ask for anything more than that – I give thanks and praise to our omnipotent Father who has wisdom and compassion beyond anything we could ever imagine!

 

What would you do if you were God (Part 4)

Rom 1133 - how unserachable“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!” Romans 11:33 [NLT]

In the previous installments of this series on God’s ways, I discussed why He does things the way He does and whether we could do any better if we had supreme control of the universe.  Now I want to focus on something a little more personal.  Putting yourself in God’s place for a moment, think about what you would do if your creatures turned away from you to the point where your relationship with them seemed irreparable.

You had designed humans so that their most primal need was to have a deep personal relationship with you, but they had chosen to abandon and deny their need for that intimate relationship.  In human terms, this seems like an impossible situation.  One party (the human being) has gone against the wishes and desires of the other party (God) by disobeying His instructions, speaking against His perfect character, and hurting Him deeply.  The first party will not admit their wrongs and refuses to apologize (repent) for their sins against the second party.

If both of these parties were human, it would be difficult if not impossible to reconcile and restore their close relationship.  The first (wronged) party would have to unilaterally forgive the other one, which requires Godlike humility and unconditional love.  Considering the extreme nature of the sins of people against God, this forgiveness would be on the level of Corrie TenBoom’s forgiveness of the concentration camp guard who brutally and mercilessly beat her sister.  However, as we know, with God “all things are possible”.  From the Romans 11:33 Scripture above, we also know that it is “impossible for us to understand God’s decisions and ways”.

So how did God choose to reconcile us back to Himself from the depths of our sin and disobedience?  Did He shout down to us in His Earth-shattering voice, speaking anger and judgment on us and our sins?  Did He accuse us of turning against Him, shaming us into such a state of humiliation and disgrace that we felt compelled to seek His forgiveness?  Did He come down to Earth, seeking retribution and justice for every sin we had committed against Him and His children?

Or did Abba draw us back to Himself (and to Yeshua) by loving us unconditionally?  It is sometimes hard to even fathom the depth of Abba’s love for us.  Think of a particularly painful time in your life, when someone has hurt you so deeply you cannot even imagine forgiving them.  Then imagine sacrificing your own child for people who despised and cruelly hurt you.  Multiply this a million or billion times and you can start to feel what our Father in heaven feels when we turn away from Him and pierce His heart to the core with our sins.

Yeshua told us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us and do good to those who hate us.  He also told us that “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for your friends”. (John 15:13)  But what if God told you to lay down your life (or your child’s life) for your enemies?  Would you be angry and resentful that He would ask you to do something so unfair?  Well that is exactly what Yeshua did for us – His Father asked Him to lay down His life for those who hated, mocked and abused Him, and He willingly consented to His Father’s will.  If Yehovah could do this for us, can we not forgive those who hurt and abuse us?

Instead of criticizing Abba for the ways He deals with people’s disobedience, try praising Him for his love and forgiveness which are more infinite than all the universe!

 

What would You do if You were God (Part 3)?

free will_2“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 [NKJV]

In the last segment of this series (Part 2), I discussed the reasons why God created us with a free will.  Please go back and read that episode: What would you do if you were God (Part 2), to get the background for this teaching. In today’s blog, we will dig deeper into God’s purpose for giving us free will. YHVH works all things together for good no matter how far we stray from His perfect plan for our lives.

We are born into the earthly realm where hasatan rules and reigns (ever since Adam and Eve gave back their dominion to him in the fall.  So you might ask: why would God have allowed our great adversary to take dominion of the Earth from us?  Well, being our all-knowing Creator, and having given us free will, He knew that we would eventually disobey Him and fall into sin.  So He created us with a conscience that steers us towards what is right and away from what is wrong.

Even young children can be influenced by other forces and willfully choose to disobey their consciences.  Parents may have taught their child right from wrong, but that child can be wrongly influenced by seeing another child doing something they know is wrong (taking something that doesn’t belong to them, or telling a fib, for instance).  If the child is caught in the act and reprimanded, but desires to please their parents, then they will resist the temptation to disobey the next time.  It is the same with our heavenly parent, Abba.  Even at a young age, children start developing a sense of what is right and wrong. They learn that their lives will be happier and less stressful if they take the “right” path in their choices.

When we come into the age of moral accountability, we generally know that we are to keep God’s commandments, but there are many forces tempting us to go astray of those commandments.  We are tempted by the snares of the world, such as the lust of the eyes and flesh around us that appear so desirable on the surface.  We are also tempted by others to stray.  At times, we can be lured by the seductive wiles of HaSatan or his evil forces to commit sinful acts.

How is God working for good through these sinful lapses on our part?  Yehovah has blessed us with intelligent minds that are able to reason through the physical consequences of sin – and a spirit ideally in tune with His Holy Spirit to help us recognize the spiritual consequences of sin, which leads to separation from God.  YHVH desires that all of His children be born again and filled with His Holy Spirit.  This means that when we fall into sin, He uses His rod and staff to correct us and pull us back into His fold.  Sometimes, we fall so far and for so long that we suffer severe consequences. These can take the form of physical or mental ailments.

As many born-again believers’ testimonies confirm, these times of falling away were the low-points in their sinful lives.  Yet God was working to bring them back and restore them to fellowship with Him.  He can work in many ways – through other believers or His angels who rescue us in dire times of great distress or danger, through Yeshua Himself who appears to people in the depths of despair, and even directly by shining His glory light into a fallen person’s heart and thoughts, giving them hope for a joyful future with Him.

There are many examples in Scripture of YHVH pulling people out of the depths of their despair.  In David’s case, he often experienced times of discouragement, desperation and even hopelessness.  Some of these times were brought about because of unjust hostility from others, such as King Sha’ul, Abimelech, etc. (1 Sam 23, Ps 22:1-8, Ps 69:1-4, Ps 56, Ps 34).  But in other cases it was his own sin that brought God’s judgment down on him (Ps 51).  In both cases, he cried out to YHVH, because he knew that God would rescue him out of his dire circumstances even when his sin had temporarily separated him from God’s presence.  At all these times, though, David was learning to trust in God’s protection and deliverance instead of trusting in people and nations to deliver him.

Similarly with Paul (Sha’ul) in the New Testament, he realized that God was his only stronghold and that was sufficient for him no matter how dire the circumstances were.  Sha’ul had sinned greatly by persecuting believers in Yeshua (Acts 7:58), before Yeshua appeared to him and saved him by grace on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-18).  He then came under great persecution himself and had to depend on YHVH to save him from his enemies, learning that YHVH was his strength when he was weak (2 Cor 12:8-10).

Think about the darkest times in your life, when someone has abused or hurt you deeply, or when you have fallen into the darkness of sin and depression.  If you are a believer, you know that those times were when God was working the most fervently in your life – to raise you back up to joy and glory in His kingdom, or to convict you of the destructive effects of your sin and the critical need to turn from your sinful ways and follow Him.  When I think about the freedom He has given us and the power of His love and grace to save us when we fall, I cannot imagine Him doing it any other way!

What would you do if you were God? (Part 2)

free will      So God created man in his own image, in the image of God [Elohim] he created him; male and female he created them.Genesis 1:27 [ESV]

In the first part of this series a couple of weeks ago, I dealt with the frequent questions about why God was supposedly such an angry, vengeful God in the Old Testament but now is a merciful and gracious God who declares all of His people righteous and holy through the blood of the Lamb, Yeshua HaMashiach.  Please go back and read that episode (What would you do if you were God) to get the full context if you have not done so. In today’s blog, I wanted to delve into the motives and intents of God’s heart in creating human beings, the crowning work of His creation.

When God [Elohim] first created mankind, He said, “Let us make human beings in Our image, to be like Us” (Gen 1:26 – NLT).  The first thing I noticed when I read this passage is that God spoke of Himself as a plural being.  As we have taught before, God [Elohim] is a name for a triune God representing all three persons of the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  So when God says He created us to be like Him, He meant all three persons of Himself.  You could loosely relate the whole essence of our being to these three persons – we certainly have a spirit (relating to God’s Holy Spirit and even able to be filled with the Holy Spirit), and we have a fleshly body, which relates to Yeshua when He came to Earth in the flesh.

But what about our soul – our mind, heart, will and emotions?  The Scriptures speak clearly about the mind of God (Num 23:13, Rom 8:27, Job 12:13, Isa 40:28, I Cor 2:16).  We know from stories like the prodigal son about the loving heart of God the Father (Luke 15:11-32).  We also know that God created us to have emotions like Himself: love, compassion, joy, anger, etc. (see Job 20:23, Ps 74:1; 86:15, Jer 7:20, Isa 62:5, Zeph 3:17).  Finally, God’s will is supreme in the universe, and He wants us to follow His will to the best of our abilities, with the help of the Holy Spirit – in Romans 12:2, Sha’ul says: “…you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect”.

God not only created us with a will as part of our souls; He created us with a free will to make our own life choices.  Because God is all-knowing, He knew that many of His children would make bad decisions in their lives and damage or destroy their lives.  We see people every day making bad choices that cause them physical and emotional pain either for themselves or others, falling into addictions, committing crimes against others or treating others unfairly.  So why did God give us free will, and “what would you have done if you were the Creator God”?

The Scriptures say that “God is love” and that He is the source of all love.  He created us in His image, to love Him and our fellow brothers and sisters.  Many people choose not to love God or follow His will, but rather they follow their own selfish will.  Because of their bad choices, they cause great pain and suffering to themselves and others.  So what if God had “programmed” our minds and hearts to love Him, so that we had no choice but to love Him.  Everyone would love Him unconditionally, but would God be pleased and rejoice over us?  If I were Him, I would be sad and depressed, knowing that my creation loved me, but they had no choice in the matter, so it wasn’t fulfilling and their love didn’t mean anything to me.

God is a God of relationships, and He created us to be in relationship with Him.  When we love and trust Him as our best friend, Lord and ruler of our lives, we have the greatest joy and fulfillment possible, and God smiles and rejoices over us because we have chosen the best path and because another one of His children loves Him of their own free will and has a personal relationship with Him.

What would You do if You were God (Part 1)?

Judgment and mercyOh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways!” Romans 11:33 [NLT]

One of the most common questions I hear from people (both believers and non-believers), is “why is God so angry, or so harsh when He judges or punishes His children”?  Of course, as an inquisitive believer myself, I have asked similar questions over the years. I certainly do not claim to be an expert on answering these questions, but through our times of Scripture study, seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we have been able to discern some insights from Yehovah that we thought might be helpful to others.

First, I want to dispel the false notion that Yehovah Elohim (the Creator God of the universe) is an angry God by nature.  From years of spiritual conversations with people, I believe this comes from ignorance (or misunderstanding) of the “Old Testament” [Tanach].  The way we hear Scriptural teachings tends to be from preachers, and from polls of Christians, it is quite evident that for the majority of believers, 95% of what they know about the Bible is what they hear from the pastors/teachers in their congregations.  Unfortunately, when we hear excerpts of God’s word, taken out of the full context surrounding the Biblical account, it can be very misleading to our understanding.

For instance, consider the Biblical Flood story and how all the people on the Earth (except for Noah and his family) were destroyed by the vengeance of God.  Even “innocent” women and children were drowned by the floodwaters.  Remembering that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “as in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22), we know that because of Adam’s sin all people will ultimately die.  At the time of Noah, though, we know from Scripture that people throughout the Earth were disobedient to God and living sinful lives: “…the LORD saw that the wickedness of people was great on the Earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

So, what was God’s response to His rebellious children – did He condemn them and bring immediate judgment on them?  Often we hear that Yehovah was an angry, vindictive God in the “Old Testament” whereas He became a God of infinite mercy and grace in the “New Testament”.  But we know that God never changes (Hebrews 13:8), and is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so something does not add up here.  Getting back to the story, God decides that He will destroy every living creature He has created.  But then Yehovah notices that there is one person (Noah) who has remained faithful to Him and “…Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord [Yehovah]”. (Gen 6:33)  Yehovah then tells Noah to build an ark and promises to preserve his family (and enough creatures to re-populate the Earth) even though He plans to destroy all other life (Gen 6:14-22).  So was Yehovah unjust to all the other people on the Earth?  No, because in 2 Peter 2:5 we read that: “Noah warned the world of God’s righteous judgment”.  Noah warned people to repent because he recognized that God was being merciful to them and giving them another opportunity to turn from their wicked ways.  If Noah had ignored YHVH, then YHVH would have had to start from scratch.  On the other hand, if some of the people had listened to Noah, then there would have been more than eight people delivered on the ark.

We see another clear example of Yehovah’s grace in the midst of His judgment in the story of Sodom & Gomorrah.  I will not go into the details of the story here, but this was another case where almost every person in those cities were wicked and sinful.  But for His friend Abraham’s sake, God would have relented from destroying them if at least 10 righteous people could be found there (Gen 18:20-33).  Since Lot and his family (even including the two angel visitors) still equaled less than 10, God delivered their family out of the judgment but still destroyed the cities.  Once again, because God is a righteous God, He cannot allow sin and evil to continue unchecked throughout His people.

Yehovah is a righteous and just God, and He cannot tolerate continual sin and evil because that would violate His spiritual laws and destroy everything that He has created.  This universe is founded on His truth and goodness (righteousness), and anyone who violates those founding principles is an enemy of God and must eventually be destroyed or brought into alignment with His righteous justice.  We find that it is very inspiring to meditate on the goodness and righteousness of Yehovah, and that when we follow His spiritual laws of truth and justice we have joy and peace in our lives beyond measure.  This is the first in a series of posts where I would like to explore Yehovah’s character, and how He interacts with His creation from the perspective of the people He has created to have dominion over the Earth.

My essential question to you is a hypothetical one: if you were God – Creator, Master and Lord of the universe, how would you handle things differently?  What would you do with your people if they disobeyed the instructions you had given them to help them live a peaceful, joy-filled life on this Earth?  If they rebelled against your spiritual laws, cursed you, and killed or committed evil acts against your children, would you simply slap their hands and tell them to try harder next time?  [Remember that this is what our loving God had already done many times over when He sent His prophets and told them He would forgive them if they would repent – He has unconditional love for His children].

Yehovah is Light

light shining out of darkness We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:4-5

I John 1:5 says that God is light, but what does that really mean and why is it important to us? It seems significant that immediately after God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth, He saw that “The earth was without form and void; and darkness was over the face of the deep”. (Gen 1:2)  It is clear that He was not pleased with the darkness, because He then said “Let there be light”, and when He saw the light, He declared that it was good (Gen 1:4). But He didn’t stop there – He was still not totally satisfied, because He then separated the light from the darkness.

At a physical level, we have a very consistent theme here – God is light and is the source of all light. There is a related theme that is just as important though – God cannot dwell in the presence of darkness, so He must separate His light from all darkness. I quoted the first part of I John 1:5 above, but I left out the last part – after John says that God is light, he goes on to say “in Him there is no darkness at all”. Throughout the Scriptures, darkness is associated with people’s sinful hearts (John 3:19), or the evil one and his Kingdom of darkness (Col 1:13).

In the same way that YHVH separated the light from the darkness in His creation, he wants to separate us from the darkness of this world. In Isaiah 52:11, YHVH says: “Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves..”. He is telling His people to come out of the darkness and impurity of the world and to cleanse their hearts of worldly impurities. Sha’ul tells us to live in the light: “You are all children of light and of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness”. (I Thess 5:5) Peter [Keifa] says that as followers of Yeshua we are: “…a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that we may proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light”. (I Pet 2:9)

From all that we have studied about the deeper (sod) spiritual meaning of YHVH’s Scriptures, everything that YHVH does has a purpose and usually teaches us some type of lesson. So let’s dig a little deeper here. We started at the front of the book with God “turning on the lights” in the beginning, and also heard John make the statement that God is light. Now let’s go to the back of the book. In Revelation 21:23, Yeshua tells John that in the end there will no longer be any need for the sun and moon because the glory of God will illuminate the city of New Jerusalem, and the Lamb [Yeshua] will be its light. When we look at the ancient Hebrew word pictures associated with the three letters in the word for light (ohr in Hebrew), we see a deeper meaning emerge: “the first Man [Yeshua the living Word] was there in the beginning when light was created”. So, we see that Yeshua was the source of light in the beginning, and He will be the source of Light again when He comes to reign on the new Earth.

Yeshua told us clearly that He is the Light of the world and we are to follow Him:

  • John 8:12: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
  • John 12:46: “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.”
  • Acts 26:17: Yeshua encountered Sha’ul on the road and told him to be a light to the lost: “… to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God…”.

Sha’ul encourages us to walk in the light of Yeshua: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light”. (Eph 5:8) In Yeshua’s well-known teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, He says: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven”. (Matt 5:14-16) At first glance, it sounds like He wants us to be out there in the world drawing attention to ourselves as we do good works. But look at the punchline at the end. What is the purpose of doing good works? So that we can “Glorify our Father in Heaven”. We are not to draw attention to ourselves through our wonderful deeds, but to Abba Father! We need to be constantly pointing to Him when people ask us why we are doing what we do, acting humbly and selflessly but boldly giving Him the glory.

Our Strength in Battle

be strong

“…Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

This verse from Joshua along with Deuteronomy 20:1-4 are well-known battle verses, meant to encourage troops before they head off into conflict. However, what about the daily battles we face, which are not usually against flesh and blood but rather against spiritual enemies and people who are influenced by spiritual forces (demons) from the kingdom of darkness?

Psalm 144:1 contains an even stronger verse relating to preparation for battle: – “Blessed be the Lord [YHVH] my Rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle—“. When we look further down in this passage, though, we see that David is talking about spiritual warfare as much as physical combat. In Verses 7-8 he says: “Rescue me and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of foreigners, whose mouth speaks lying words, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.” We see from these verses that David is not getting training in face-to-face physical combat techniques so much as he is learning to trust YHVH his Rock in all situations, knowing that Yehovah will be fighting alongside him and rescuing him from the enemy’s attacks.

Where then do David and other warriors get their courage and strength? Looking back at the Joshua 1 passage once again, we see that Joshua is told to be strong and courageous, but not because of his own prowess or battle-worn experience. He is told that Yehovah will be with him in the battles, and because of that he does not need to fear. In 2 Chronicles 32:7-8 King Hezekiah says: “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord [YHVH] our God, to help us and to fight our battles…” Verse 8 clearly states that their army is greater than the army of Assyria, but not because of physical numbers. Rather, their strength and numbers are bolstered by having God Himself with them. In fact, God is not only with them, but He is fighting the battles for them!

If we need YHVH to be with us when we fight the physical and spiritual battles of life, then how do we ensure that YHVH is with us? The answer is in a single word, trust. It sounds simple, but it requires us to trust YHVH with our life, which is not simple. We learn this deep level of trust day-by-day by experiencing YHVH’s Hand of victory throughout the trials and conflicts of our lives. One of the clearest testimonies to trusting YHVH is in 2 Chronicles 14:11 when Asa cried out to YHVH and said, “LORD [YHVH], it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let people prevail against You!”

Another example of this type of unquestioning trust is in Exodus 33:15-16 when Moses says to YHVH: “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us?” In this statement to YHVH, Moses is saying that he knows they will not be successful if YHVH does not go with them, and the Israelites will not have the testimony that they cannot succeed without YHVH.

So, where did these leaders find the strength to go out before their enemies, knowing their armies were physically inferior and that they did not have the courage and strength in themselves to be victorious? They found their strength in YHVH. There are many verses in the Torah, Psalms and Prophets that talk about people putting all their trust in YHVH’s strength. In fact they say that YHVH is their strength (Ex 15:2, Ps 18:2; 19:4; 118:14, Isa 12:2, etc.). I believe David sums this up in Psalm 27:1: “…The LORD [YHVH] is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps 27:1) Even Sh’aul came to this conclusion in all his struggles when YHVH said to him: “…‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in [your] weakness’.” (2 Cor 12:9)

I aspire to have this kind of trust, where I have no anxiety or fear when I am going through the severe trials of life; only believing that YHVH will get me through those trials and that He will give me the victory over whatever enemy I am facing, whether physical, emotional or spiritual. My desire is that you will also learn to have this type of unwavering trust in YHVH, the Creator of the universe, and in His Son, Yeshua our Redeemer.

Is God Weak?

God's emotions

When we think of God’s nature or character, what comes to mind? We certainly think of His supernatural qualities (omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent), since they are astonishing to us as mortal humans.  Next we might think of His qualities in interacting with His creation, such as His love, compassion, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness. These qualities are not quite so amazing to us, since He wants us to learn to take these on personally as we grow closer to Him. The most awesome aspect of these qualities is their absolute perfection within our Creator (e.g. unconditional love).

There is a tendency to think that emotions attributed to YHVH are only mentioned in scripture to help people relate better to Yehovah. In other words, some scriptural commentators teach that the apparently human emotions ascribed to YHVH in His Word are meant to be merely anthropomorphic, as we wouldn’t understand Yehovah’s words and actions if we didn’t bring His character down to a human emotional level.

However, if the scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit of YHVH, then they would not lie to us or mislead us by wrongly ascribing contrived human emotions to the Creator and Redeemer of the universe! As we have said in other postings, Yehovah Elohim is all about relationship, both within the triune Godhead and between Himself and all of His human children on earth. So, wouldn’t He want us to know His emotions as well as His will, His heart, His intellect and other aspects of His character? Nancy and I believe that YHVH has powerful and awesome emotions which He exhibits all through His Word. It is apparent from even a simple perusal of the passages where He shows strong feelings that He has good reason for His emotions, and understanding those emotions helps us to know Him better and draw closer to Him.

We know that we are made in Yehovah’s image (Gen 1:27), so it makes perfect sense that our emotions are reflective of His emotions. The only difference is that we are subject to sin whereas He is sinless. For example, He gets angry but does not sin, unlike us. Yehovah is pleased with us sometimes (1 Kings 3:10), but at other times He can be angry with us (Deut 1:37); He is truly grieved at times, with His heart full of pain (Ps 78:40), but at other times He is full of joy (Jer 33:9). We even see YHVH laughing (Ps 2:4) and also weeping as illustrated passionately by Yeshua in John 11:35 and Luke 19:41.

Here are a few other key examples illustrating Yehovah’s emotions in scripture: He was “moved by pity” (Judges 2:18), had “compassion on His children” (Ps 103:13), “rejoices over them [His people] with singing” (Zeph 3:17), shows great anger – Isa 54:8 “In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment..”, and even has regrets – “So the LORD was sorry He had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke His heart” (Gen 6:6). We also know that Yeshua was fully human and fully divine (Heb 2:17; 4:15), representing YHVH on this earth (Immanuel, literally “God with us”). Being fully human means that Yeshua has a mind, will, heart and emotions just like any created human, except that He is without sin. Yeshua also said that if we have seen Him we have seen the Father, so Yeshua’s emotions cannot be attributed merely to His being human.

Recognizing that YHVH has emotions helps us understand YHVH better, and there is comfort in knowing that He identifies with every one of the emotions we feel, because they originated from Him and He feels every one of them just as we do (Heb 2:17).   When we search for evidences of Yehovah’s Kingdom being manifested here on earth as Yeshua prayed in Matthew 6:10, we need to look for YHVH-like qualities in people. We can certainly see people’s actions easily – but how do we see their heart motives underneath as YHVH sees them? One of the best ways is through the emotions they’re exhibiting. Are they God-like – kind, compassionate, patient, gracious, and caring more about others than themselves?

When I think of the best movies and books I’ve enjoyed over the years, I realize that they are the life stories of people who have struggled with various human issues and eventually overcome the sinful nature and frailties of character that we are all born into this fallen world with. So what touches us about these stories? Is it the great victories these people won, or the relationships that were healed, or the way they have (or God has) changed their lives for the better and overcome their sinful natures? It is all of these, but what really touches us (from my experience anyway) are the powerful, passionate emotions shown by these people as they are going through these life-changing experiences and transformations in their character and their relationships.

Yehovah is a God filled with emotions, and one of the best ways to get in touch with His emotions is to spend time with Him. When we praise and worship Him in Spirit and truth (John 4:24) we draw close to Him and learn to empathize with His emotions and His heart. This may result in physical manifestations like weeping or feeling an electrical current flowing through our body, or in a deeper spiritual connection with the Creator of the universe, lining up our emotions with His emotions and feeling what He is feeling.

Our Western society does not value or respect human emotions, and many people (like myself) grew up in families where it is considered wrong or weak to show emotions. I find it so comforting to know that my capacity to feel and show emotions comes from our Abba Father, who is God that expresses Himself through His emotions. Since we know that YHVH is not weak in any way, then the emotions we feel can no longer be seen as a human weakness but rather as a strength that allows to connect with our Creator in a deeper way.