Proverbs 1 and the Pursuit of Knowledge

On the card table that is serving as my desk while we are between houses, I have a stack of books that I am reading, along with my journal, my bible and bible study binder. In the corner is a small bookshelf with books that are in queue to be read in the near future. Amazon and Abe books are kept busy with my constant orders. Sometimes I feel myself getting stressed because there is so much I want to read and study and just not enough hours in the day!

Today is the start of the book of Proverbs for Good Morning Girls. I’m really excited – I love reading Proverbs and have since I was young. In my SOAP for this morning, I focused on verses 5-7.

The wise person seeks wisdom and knowledge, and seeks out learned counselors. It’s the wise person who knows that there is always more to learn and seek after, and searches out knowledge. A wise person also seeks wise counsel, and is receptive to their teaching. The fool is the one who is content with what they know and does not seek out knowledge, and is not willing to be taught.

This morning I prayed for a seeking heart, with a desire to continue seeking out new learning opportunities and a heart open to mentorship by wise counselors.

This is one of the reasons I am drawn to Leadership Education – the idea of being a mentor, as well as being mentored. While I think I am capable of mentoring, and have a lot of knowledge to offer, I am also in need of mentorship. I think that is what makes great leaders, willingness to mentor and a willingness and desire to be mentored. When we understand that there is more to learn and others have things to teach us, we are on a path to greater wisdom.

Mentors aren’t always flesh and blood people; often they are characters in books that teach us about human nature or character traits or life situations we are experiencing. This is why I am seeking out good books on a variety of subjects. In this current season I am reading a lot about mothers and motherhood – the characters in books like Mother and Mother Carey’s Chickens are mentoring me in how to be a better mother to my own children.

Every morning I smile to myself as I watch my eight-year-old daughter grab her stack of books from under her pillow and next to the bed, and head downstairs for breakfast. This girl gets it. She has a passion for learning and reading and she counts books as her closest companions. She also loves the L-rd and has a passion for studying scripture. She will be pursuing wisdom for a long time!

Unintended Sin – Leviticus 4

‘If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, he is guilty.

Leviticus 4:27

Good Morning Girls started reading Leviticus this week. This book can be a little tough to read for many people because there is a lot of minutiae regarding the law and various offerings. I think there is a tendency to skim through when we read Leviticus, so I am really glad to be reading it intentionally, one chapter at a time to glean what I can from it.

Today in Leviticus 4, the Sin Offering was discussed. While there were plenty of details regarding the selecting and preparing the sacrifice, what stood out to me was the reason for the offering. An anointed priest, the whole of the Israelite community, a leader, or any member of the community – all were expected to offer a sin offering for their offense.

Here is what I found interesting – the sin could be unintentional and the person (or community) was still guilty and expected to offer this sin offering. Ignorance of God’s law, not knowing something was forbidden was not an excuse and did not give the people a pass. Ignorance of the law does not remove one from under the law or the consequences of violating the law.

In everyday terms, this would be like driving through a stop sign and either not seeing it, or not knowing (like you were in a foreign land) that the sign meant you were supposed to stop. You broke the law regardless and are responsible for making amends. On a more spiritual level, there are many people who are Christian but have very little knowledge of the Word of God. Not knowing the word of God doesn’t release us from the commands that are in the Word of God.

When he is made aware of the sin he committed, he must bring as his offering a male goat without defect.

Leviticus 4:23

There seems to be a resistance to correction in our society today. We are quick to take offense when something we are doing wrong is pointed out to us. Even within the Church, instead of taking the correction to heart and making amends, we become offended and turn things around on the person who has pointed out the offense. Not all correction is done with a malicious spirit. We should be open to correction, if it is done with good intentions and is scripturally sound.

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Making Oaths

This week for Bible Study (we are using Bible Road Trip if you are interested) we are reading the second part of Judges. If you are unfamiliar with Judges, it focuses on the cycle of falling away from God that plagued the Israelites after entering the Promised Land.

The people would follow God and remember all He had done for them. And then they would fall into sin with their neighbors, worshiping their Gods and just leading generally sinful lives. God would remove his protective hand from them and let them fall into captivity or become subjugated by one of the warring neighbors. Finally they would cry out to God, and most likely make plenty of promises to always stay faithful to God if He would only deliver them. God would raise up a judge who would lead them out of their subjugation. Inevitably they would follow God for a time but then fall into sinful ways and idolatry, and the cycle would continue.

Today we read about Jephthah – God raised him up to save the Israelites from the Ammonites. When Jephthah asked God to give the Ammonites into his hand in battle, he made an oath to God to offer up as a burnt sacrifice the first thing that greeted him when he returned after the battle. As it happened, it was his daughter, his only child, that came through the gate to greet him when he returned. He was sorely distressed but after giving her two months to mourn, he carried through with his oath.

“And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into his hands. He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon. When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.””

‭‭Judges‬ ‭11:30-35‬ ‭NIV‬‬

However, we also read that in the book of Leviticus, the idea of thoughtless oaths had already been addressed. If a person made a thoughtless or careless oath – one they forgot to fulfill or could or should not fulfill (as in Jephthah’s case) – whether with good or bad intentions – that person had sinned, and once they realize their sin needed to confess to the priest and make a sin offering. Jephthah was guilty of making a sinful oath, and rather than carry through with the oath, he ought to have confessed it as a sin and made atonement.

“or if anyone thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil (in any matter one might carelessly swear about) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt— when anyone becomes aware that they are guilty in any of these matters, they must confess in what way they have sinned. As a penalty for the sin they have committed, they must bring to the Lord a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for them for their sin.”

‭‭Leviticus‬ ‭5:4-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In Matthew Chapter 5, Jesus expands on many topics, includin the making of oaths. He says the people had been instructed long ago to not break their vows, but to fulfill any vows to God they had made. But Jesus told the people not to swear oaths at all, because what could a person truly swear by? Simply make your Yes mean Yes and your No mean No.

““Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:33-37‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This is something that is still so relevant in our lives today. How many of us swear, or promise to do things, and either make these promises casually with no real intention of following through, or promise something so unrealistic or unlikely that following through can’t or won’t happen? We make things much worse for ourselves when we compound our problems with thoughtless promises.

Not following through with an action is bad enough, but we make it so much worse when we swear or promise to do something and it doesn’t happen. Think about the damage to relationships that comes from making promises or vows. Thoughtless promises made to people are harmful enough, but how much worse is it when we make vows and promises to God that we don’t fulfill? Jesus made it clear – don’t make promises or oaths. Just keep it simple with a Yes or a No – and let your Yes mean Yes and your No mean No. If you say you are going to do it, do it. Don’t make it complicated with a promise or an oath, just do what you say you are going to do.

Exodus 30

Exodus 30:15

The rich are not to give more than half a shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to atone for your lives.

The atonement offering expected from all Israelites was half a shekel and was to be the same for both rich and poor.

Rich and poor have no bearing on the value of a man to God. One is not more worth (or less) of atonement. God counts us all equally worthy. We should be mindful of that even today.

I am thankful that God sees us equally and does not judge our value the same way we judge ourselves and others.

Exodus 27

Exodus 27:8

8 It is to be made just as you were shown on the mountain.

This is not the first time “just as you were shown on the mountain” is used in describing the Tabernacle plans. I don’t think Moses stood on the mountain and took down notes on the design of the Tabernacle, just hearing the voice of God. I picture God showing Moses a clear vision of the Tabernacle, so that Moses could fully visualize and experience the Tabernacle that God had planned. Only then could he return to the people with a clear image of it in his mind. I imagine him overseeing the work of the embroiderers, saying “No, No, it needs to be ‘just so.”

God can give us a clear vision of what he has in store for us. He can let us see it clearly, visualize it, experience it so that we know to plan, down to the ’embroidery’ details.

My prayer is that God gives me a Tabernacle vision too, so that I have a clear image of what he wants for me and what he has in store for me.

Exodus 23

Exodus 23:4-5

4 If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.

We are called to help our enemies in a proactive way. If there was someone who despised me, and I happened to witness their ox or donkey wander off (or some modern equivalent of troubles), I could easily do nothing. It’s not like I let them escape or personally caused this trouble to happen. I am under no obligation to help them with their troubles. I could rest easy knowing that I didn’t do anything wrong by not assisting since it had nothing to do with me.But God calls us to do something, even for people who are our enemy.

We are to be proactive in helping them. While it would be simple enough to just “not do anything” if their ox or donkey wandered off, we are called to bring their animal back to them. If we see their donkey fall down under its load, we could easily just keep on walking since it’s not our fault, but instead God calls us to stop and help our enemy with it.

This is difficult!

In reading Russ Reznik’s essay Messianic Jewish Ethics in Introduction to Messianic Judaism, he writes “the divine image is obviously not a physical resemblance, but neither is it an abstract spiritual resemblance. Rather, it entails representing God through active engagement with the creation.

This understanding of the image of God gives rise to the Jewish idea that God does ethics before we do, that our ethical behavior is not just a matter of obedience, or even of pleasing God, but of reflecting God and his nature, fulfilling the assignment to bear the divine image.”

It’s hard to imagine what life would be like if God treated us like we treated our enemies. Even when we despise God, God loves us and blesses us. We are called to proactively bless our enemy, not just passively “not” harm them. We aren’t called to do this so much for obedience, but rather as a reflection of the divine image of God. God does ethics first.

Introduction to Messianic Judaism

I am slowly working through a collection of essays, edited by David Rudolph and Joel Willitts, entitled Introduction to Messianic Judaism. This is an excellent read, especially in light of the growth of the Messianic Jewish community and the interest of “gentiles” in the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith.

This book covers a lot of material: Messianic Jews in antiquity and the modern era, the “nuts and bolts” so to speak of Messianic worship style, synagogues, ethics, role of and relationship with women, and the relationship of Messianic Judaism and Israel. The relationship of Messianic Jews and the wider Jewish community, as well as with the Christian church, is also discussed.

There is a lot to chew in this book. I keep my Bible within reach, as well as my computer for clarification of unfamiliar concepts or words. Each chapter has suggestions for additional reading. and I find myself following rabbit trails as I read.

I’ve made it through the first half of the book, and rather than go through all the previous chapters, I am going to look through some of my notes and post some of the more significant points that I wrote down. As I work through the second half, I’ll continue to post quotes and thoughts on the current reading.

Bible Study with Good Morning Girls

I have been reading the Bible following the Good Morning Girls schedule for a couple of months, and it’s been a real blessing. It is one chapter a day, with the intention of really getting into the scripture one small piece at a time. Courtney at Women Living Well promotes the SOAK method. The SOAK method is simple:

Scripture – Focus on one or a couple verses from that day’s chapter. Even in a chapter as “mundane” as one detailing the measurements of the Tabernacle’s curtains or listing off the geneology of one of the tribes of Israel, we can find a gem, a nugget of wisdom from God.

Observation – What is the selected verse talking about; what are our observations?

Application – This one is a little harder. How does what we observe in the selected verse(s) apply to our life today? How can we use this scripture to grow in our spiritual life?

Kneel in Prayer – Previously P for Prayer in the SOAP method. How are we moved to pray following our bible study?

The new year started with the reading of Exodus, and will be wrapping up this month. I’ll be sharing some of my SOAK notes for the remainder of Exodus, and then move into Matthew in March.