Discovering the Messiah through
Leviticus 6:28A: The clay pot the meat is cooked in must be broken......
At Shiloh, where the yearly sacrifices were offered before Jerusalem, the people of Israel were required to set aside something special simply for the purpose of sacrifice. This clay pot had one purpose: to carry the sacrifice and to allow the fragrance of atonement to fill the air. This pot was consecrated for something special. Yes, it was broken at the end, but this pot was a key part in the reconciliation of an Israelite family with YAWEH. This pot did not have a comfortable, normal life. But this pot had a purpose - the story was not about the pot; it was about the work of the sacrifice it carried.
The Lord has been showing me that I am like this pot. I carry the power of Jesus - the sacrificial lamb inside of me. And life is painful - I will be broken. But the story is not about me. My purpose is to live a life of sacrifice so that the fragrance of Christ's perfect atonement might fill the air. I am consecrated for something special - I do not want to live a comfortable normal life. I do not want my life to be about me. May I always remember that I am merely a vessel for the power of the perfect sacrifice to reside in.
2 Corinthians 4:7: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
*Pottery shards from Shiloh - at least one of them is from the Judges era and may very well have been part of an Israelite family's sacrifice!
A God who sees: interactions with Muslims
A good friend and I went for an adventure to the Somali mall in Minneapolis. I was one of the only women there without a hijab, and my friend wore shorts. We stuck out like sore thumbs. We walked around and had a few conversations. As we were looking at scarves, one woman decided to give me one as a gift. I was blown away by this generosity. I was obviously not a Muslim, not Somali, and had no connection whatsoever. However, this woman decided to bless me. Every time I look at this scarf, I am trying to remember to thank God for these people and to lift them up in prayer. Also, I need to remember to show kindness to strangers. As a follower of Christ, I needed this reminder to share what I have with people who are different from me.
After stopping at a small restaurant for sambusa, we explored more. One woman greeted us so we had a long conversation. It started by sharing with each other where we had traveled and our dreams of travel in the future.
I asked about how Ramadan was for them. This opened a long conversation about religion. She told me about the five pillars if Islam and asked if we fasted at all. I was able to say that the roots of Christianity was believing in Jesus. Asking questions opens up doors for sharing the gospel.
We were talking about prayer, and how much I respect Muslims for their dedication to honoring their God so consistently. I quoted the verse, "pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayer and requests." She said that that was beautiful - scripture does have power!! She asked me who I thought Jesus was. I said that we believe that Jesus is the son of God. The name of Jesus also has power! We ended by saying we would pray for each other . She mentioned that she serves God to the best of her ability and prays to find truth - pray that she finds truth!!!
Hagar was the first woman besides Eve to interact with God on a personal level. According to society, she was a nobody. She was used for a specific purpose and then cast out. But God sought her out specifically. He spoke to her before speaking to Sarai. God saw her and recognized her value - he was her El Roi (the God who sees). He also promised to make her child into a great nation. While the messiah descended from Isaac, Jesus came for ALL people. The Lord has been challenging me to truly see Muslim people, for they are priceless in His sight.
Visiting an Orthodox Synagogue
Recently, I had the privilege of celebrating Sabbath at an Orthodox Synagogue. The Jewish people are beautiful, dedicated, and tenacious in their faith. I was extremely blessed to be able to observe a Shabbat (sabbath) service.
I entered the room during prayers and was handed a prayer book with English translations - praise God! My lack of education was clearly shown when I forgot that the Hebrew language and therefore the prayer books, read right to left!
One thing that struck me about the Hebrew prayers was how focused they were on God and God alone. So often I will only pray to ask for things. Their prayers focused on the glory, majesty, power, and love of Hashem (Hebrew name for God, literally translated as "the name").
After the prayers, the Torah was brought out. The cantor and the congregation sang and chanted with joy as the Torah was lifted out of the arc in the front of the room and brought to the center of the congregation. The blessing of having the word of God IS something that we should rejoice over. The Torah in the center reminded me how God is a God for all people. He comes down, right into the middle of our lives. The word of God speaks right into the middle of our messy situations. The Torah reading for this day the "snake being lifted" in Numbers. They also read from the prophets on a yearly rotation - this week the men read from 1st Samuel.
The rabbi then spoke about a former rabbi who died at the hands of communist Russia because he refused to be transported on the sabbath. While he could have easily justified breaking sabbath to save his life, he decided not to because of the people that looked up to him. While I do not have the same sabbath convictions as the Jewish people, I also have people looking up to me. I need to take my actions seriously, because as a teacher, I will have people looking at my life as they make decisions.
After the service, which was over two hours (they are dedicated people), I was invited to the Kiddush lunch afterwards. The stew was cooked the night before and left on the stove because no cooking is done on the sabbath.
One lady told me about how she read a book about how a Christian converted to Judaism because she felt like Yom Kippur offered more room for grace than Christianity. This saddened me because we clearly are not showing/sharing the love and grace of God that well then!
I had a long conversation with another woman about Israel, Judaism, and many other things (Israel actually opened many doors for conversations so praise God!). She shared how it was difficult to get a job without working on Saturdays. I again was struck by how these people's first priority was their faith. I can learn from this. I was then asked why many Christians don't like Israel (This question was a bit stressful - 19 year old having to answer for all Christians :P). I responded by saying that many Christians misunderstand both the heart of God and the Jewish people. At the end of our conversation, we thanked each other for sharing our perspectives - it was a really sweet moment.
I learned so much from this visit and hope I represented Christ and Christians well. I would encourage you to experience new things and hear people's stories. The world needs people who care. Be that person, because Jesus was that person. He heard people's stories. He saw the beauty in diversity. And he was Jewish too :)
Questions + struggle = faith?
YAWEH loves those with questions
With requests beyond the typical.
HE rewards those who ask for blessing,
And those who present a struggle.
Abraham stood before the Lord,
Confident in his requests.
Begging God to spare His mighty sword,
And deliver the righteous.
Jacob wrestled with the King of Kings,
Refusing to release his grasp.
For he knew of the divine blessing,
And refused to lose his chance!
Hannah approached the tabernacle
Bitter, broken, and alone.
She asked for a simple miracle,
And received a son of her own.
Lord, you heard the cry of Jabez,
Begging to be relieved of pain.
You reached down and made him blessed,
And slowly removed his shame.
Israel means to struggle with God.
Yet Israel was YAWEH's chosen race.
Why in church is it often taught,
That struggle is a lack of faith?
Lord if I am your precious child,
Purchased and grafted in.
Can I struggle with you once in a while?
And, please show me your blessings!
Destruction of idols: Thoughts from 2nd Kings.
In my personal devotions, I have been reading through the Samuels and the Kings. In the midst of the confusing names and stories that don't make much sense to me, there are some incredible lessons to be learned.
1. Not putting God first has consequences. 2nd kings 13:2-3: "He did evil in the eyes of the LORD by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them. So the LORD’s anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son.
2. Not vigorously removing idols from our lives also has consequences. The story of Amaziah, King of Judah illustrates this. 2nd Kings 14: 3-4: "He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, but not as his father David had done. In everything he followed the example of his father Joash. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there." By not destroying those things, Israel continued in it's idolatry which eventually lead to exile. My life can easily resonate with this story. It is so easy to live a moral life, and "do what is right" while still having hidden idols, high places that I elevate above YAWEH.
3. Even good things can be idols. 2nd Kings 18:4: "He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it." Hezekiah was so passionate about honoring the name of YAWEH that he was willing to destroy this remnant of Israel's history. This snake (through the power of God) was used to save the nation of Israel. Good, beautiful things used by God to bring His salvation can become stumbling blocks if they are lifted higher than the cross of Jesus Christ.
2nd Kings has shown me the importance of seeking God alone. Anything that hinders the pursuit of YAWEH must not only be avoided, but destroyed. I have realized that good things that the Lord has given to further his kingdom such as talents, my calling, etc, can become idols if I put them in a "high place" above God himself.
Daring to pray big prayers: lessons from Shiloh
So often, I can get caught up in the comfortable western Christian mentality of putting God in a comfortable box. When our team went to Israel, we visited a sight called Shiloh. To be completely honest, I barely recognized the name of the place. However, it was here that my eyes were opened to the power of the Living God.
Shiloh was the first capital of Israel and was where the tabernacle was stationed for almost 400 years. During the entire Judges era, this was where people worshiped, sacrificed, and sought the Lord. One such worshiper was a woman named Hannah.
"In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head. So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.” - 1st Samuel 1: 10, 11, 19.
Hannah defied what was comfortable and ran straight into the presence of YAWEH. Even though she came to the Lord with complete brokenness, and maybe a little bitterness, the Lord still honored her boldness. She fully recognized even with the child's name that this blessing was only "Because I asked the Lord for him." I was recently having a conversation with a mentor of mine who said that the reason we often do not see God's hand moving is because we do not pray dangerous prayers.
The Lord has been calling me on a journey of praying big prayers. In the past few months, I have been able to pray with a Jewish law professor, the mother of a Native American Shaman, an old man at a nursing home, and many others. Don't be afraid of asking God for big things - He can handle our requests. Even if this is not in His will, God desires for his people to persistently seek His face. Join me on this adventure of praying boldly.
The beauty of Leviticus: Part Three
Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. Leviticus 4:34
The horns of the altar were simply four protruding, horn-like shapes from the altar. Many of the sacrifices had this odd requirement of putting blood on the horns before completing the sacrifice. It was a necessary step in the atonement process. Luke 1:69 states, "He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David." The word horn can also be used to symbolize strength. Jesus Christ is the strength of our salvation. This little detail has direct connection to the Messiah!
After the blood was put on the horns, the rest of the blood would be poured out at the base of the altar. This animal was completely emptied of itself to provide atonement for Israel. John 19:34 states, "Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water." Jesus was completely emptied of himself. His blood was completely poured out for the redemption of his people.
The beauty of Leviticus: Part Two
If the offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, you are to offer a dove or a young pigeon.....He shall tear it open by the wings, not dividing it completely, and then the priest shall burn it on the wood that is burning on the altar. Leviticus 1: 14, 17.
the offering of birds was for a family with limited income. Jesus's family fit into this category. The Holy Family's humble offering showed that Jesus came for ALL people, not just those who could give the largest offering.
This offering would have covered the person's guilt. The bird, broken and stretched out would have covered the sin and provided refuge for the sinner. Psalm 36:7B states O "God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings". Jesus's body, broken and stretched out on the cross, covered my sin.
Beloved, he covers you with the shadow of wings. Don't be afraid to take refuge in Him. YAWEH is God who not only keeps covenants to His people but fulfills them in ways far beyond human imagination. The priests, doing their daily duty of offering these sacrifices had no idea that they were part of the story of salvation that our Abba Father is writing. In our daily lives, we are so often unaware of the beautiful stories of redemption that the Lord is writing.
The beauty of Leviticus: Part One
Many people - even mature believers are uncomfortable with the book of Leviticus. The Lord has been challenging me to embrace the uncomfortable, and in doing so, I have been blown away by the goodness of God in Leviticus. Every little detail of the sacrificial system points directly to the cross of Jesus Christ.
Leviticus 7: 16-17. ‘If, however, their offering is the result of a vow or is a freewill offering, the sacrifice shall be eaten on the day they offer it, but anything left over may be eaten on the next day. Any meat of the sacrifice left over till the third day must be burned up."
On the first and second days, the sacrifice was valid. You could see evidence of the death. However, on the third day, the evidence was destroyed. The sacrifice was no longer valid. Jesus Christ, fulfiller of the vow/covenant, the perfect freewill offering, rose on the third day. The sacrifice was valid on the first and second day, but on the third day, "it was finished." Praise the Lord, that on that third day, the sacrificial system was no longer valid. Christ, the freewill offering, rose again.