Category Archives: Old Testament Word

Addressing the Elephant in the Room…

When his brothers got ready to leave Egypt, Joseph called the manager of his palace once again, and ordered, “Fill the men’s packs with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s money just inside his pack.  Then, put my silver goblet just inside the youngest one’s pack, along with his grain money.”  The manager of the palace did as he was commanded.

The brothers left with their donkeys at daybreak, but before they were far from the city, Joseph gave this order to his palace manager, “Chase after those men and when you catch them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil?  Why did you take my master’s silver cup that he uses to predict the future?  What you have done is evil!'”

So, the palace manager took off and chased them, and when he caught up with the brothers, he exclaimed, “Why have you repaid good with evil?  Why did you take my master’s silver cup that he uses to predict the future?  What you have done is evil!”

Joseph’s brothers were shocked at the man’s accusation, and replied, “Why do you speak this way, my lord?  We would never do such a thing, may heaven forbid it!  Don’t you remember?  When we found the money inside our packs, we brought it back to you from the land of Canaan!  So how could you think that we would steal silver or gold from your lord’s palace?”  Confident that they were guilty of no crime, they finished with, “If you find the goblet on any one of us, put him to death — and the rest of us will serve as your slaves!”

“No,” the palace manager replied.  “The one who has my lord’s silver goblet will be my slave, but the rest of you will be blameless.”  Then, each one of the brothers hurriedly placed his pack on the ground and opened them.  The manager searched each bag, starting with the eldest brother, and ending with the youngest, and he found the governor’s silver goblet where he had planted it, in Benjamin’s pack.

When the brothers saw this, they moaned and ripped their clothes in grief.  Each of them remembered their father’s fearful countenance, when he had finally allowed Benjamin to travel to Egypt with them.  Losing Benjamin, on top of his continued grief for Joseph, would kill him, and then, his death would be on their shoulders, too.  Each of them, except for Benjamin, who didn’t know of their sin against Joseph, realized their sins had finally caught up with them.  They believed that God’s retribution was finally upon them.  Therefore, each one quickly reloaded his donkey and returned to the city to face the governor.

Joseph was still in his palace, when Judah and his brothers arrived, and all of them fell down before him on the ground, trembling with fear.  Joseph was startled to see that all of them had returned, and he said, “How could you do this to me?  Don’t you know that I’m able to see into the future?”

Judah fearfully replied, “O my lord, what can we say?  There’s no way for us to prove our innocence.  God is repaying us for our sins, so here we are.  We have all returned to be your slaves, not just the one with whom my lord’s silver cup was found!”

Again, his brothers surprised him, and Joseph replied, “Heaven forbid!  I would never do such a thing.  Only the man who stole my goblet will be my slave, and the rest of you may go in peace to your father.”

Judah’s heart broke as he remembered both his father’s fear of losing Benjamin just as he’d lost Joseph, and the promise that he had made to protect Benjamin from harm.  So, he arose and beseeched Joseph, “Please, my lord!  May I speak freely with you, without arousing your anger?  For you are as powerful as Pharaoh himself.” 

At Joseph’s nod, Judah proceeded, “Do you remember when you asked us, ‘Do you have a father?  Or a brother?’  We truthfully answered your questions, my lord, telling you about our father, who is an old man, and about our youngest brother, who is a child of his old age.  We told you that this youngest brother also had a full brother, who is dead, and that he alone is all that remains of his mother’s children, and our father loves him greatly.

“Then, when you ordered us to bring our brother down to you, so that you could see him, we told you, ‘The boy can’t leave his father, for if he were to leave him, our father would surely die.’  When we told you this, my lord, you said that we would not see your face again, unless we brought our brother back with us, so we went back home to your servant, my father, and told him what you had said, and when our father told us to return to Egypt to buy some grain, we told him that we couldn’t.

“We said, ‘We can’t go down to Egypt again, unless our youngest brother is with us, because the governor won’t let us see his face without him.'”

Wiping tears from his eyes, Judah drew a deep breath, and continued, “Then your servant, my father, said, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons.  The one left and never returned, for he was surely torn to pieces by some wild animal.  Now, if you take this son away from me too, and something happens to him, you will send this white-haired old man down to his grave with grief.’

“So, how can I go to your servant, my father, without his youngest son?  For his heart is bound up with the boy’s heart, and when he sees the boy isn’t with us, it will kill him.  If his heart is broken yet again, the grief will send our white-haired father to his grave, and it will be my fault.  For I, your servant, guaranteed my brother’s safety.  I told my father, ‘If I fail to bring him to you, then I will bear the blame forever.’

“Therefore, my lord, I beg you to let me stay as your slave instead of the boy, and let him return home to my father with our brothers.”  Judah sobbed, remembering Jacob’s pain when he lost Joseph, because of his and his brothers’ sin.  Now, more than twenty years later, his father still grieved for Joseph, and losing Benjamin would no doubt kill him.  “Please, my lord,” Judah pleaded, “allow me to stay as your slave, and let Benjamin return to our father, for I couldn’t bear to see his anguish, if I return without him.”

When he saw their compassion and discerned their repentance, Joseph could contain himself no longer.  He ordered his servants and attendants to leave the room immediately.  Then, when no one but his brothers remained, Joseph wept loudly, and revealed himself to them.  More than twenty years of torment were loosed with Joseph’s tears.  Indeed, he wailed so loudly, his entire household and even Pharaoh’s household heard his keening.

“I am Joseph!” he gasped in the midst of his wailing.  “Is it true that my father, Jacob, still lives?”  His brothers were so dumbfounded at the governor’s actions, that they couldn’t speak at first.  So, Joseph beckoned his brothers, “Please!  Come closer.”

elephant in the room 3

They approached him hesitantly, as fear and hope warred within each of them.  “I’m Joseph, your brother, whom you sold as a slave to Egypt,” he told them.  Their eyes widened in alarm, as the truth of their sin was finally exposed, and the elephant in the room was addressed for the first time in more than twenty years.  “Don’t be sad and angry with yourselves for selling me into slavery here,”  Joseph said, as the tears continued to flow down his cheeks.  He looked into the eyes of each of his brothers, who had betrayed him, starting with Reuben, the oldest, all the way down to Zebulun.  As he looked into each of their eyes, they at first tried to avert his gaze, but then they each looked back at him, and tears soon flowed from their eyes too.

Meanwhile, Benjamin stared at Joseph, completely enthralled by his brother, and filled with joy.  He couldn’t wait to share the good news with his father that Joseph, who had been lost to them for more than twenty years was found.  He couldn’t wait to see his father’s joy when he discovered that his son, whom he thought was dead, still lived!

Joseph grinned at him, then turned back to his other brothers.  “Don’t be sad and angry with yourselves for selling me into slavery here,”  Joseph said again, as he fully addressed the elephant in the room.  “For it was really God who sent me ahead of you to preserve your lives.  Indeed, the famine that has been over the land for the last two years will continue for yet another five years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvest.

“Don’t you see?”  Joseph asked.  “God sent me ahead of you to ensure that you will have descendants on earth and to save your lives in a great deliverance.  So, it was not you who sent me here, but God, and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of all his household and ruler over the whole land of Egypt.”

Joseph drew closer to them and said, “Brothers, hurry up and go to my father.  Tell him that Joseph says, ‘Elohim has made me lord of all Egypt!  Come down to me and don’t delay!  You will live in the land of Goshen and be near me with your children, your grandchildren, flocks, herds and everything you own.  I will provide for you there, so you won’t be impoverished because five more years of famine are yet to come.’

Artistic close up of an African elephant in black and white

“Brothers, you can see with your own eyes see that it truly is me, Joseph, speaking to you.  Benjamin, you see with your own eyes that I am truly Joseph, your long-lost brother!  Now go,”  Joseph said, as yet more tears began to flow from his eyes.  “Tell my father how honored I am in Egypt and everything you have seen, and hurry up and bring him down here to me!”  Finally, Joseph gathered Benjamin into his arms, and wept as he embraced him.  Benjamin, too, wept into Joseph’s neck.  Joseph then kissed all of his brothers, washing them with his tears.  Then, Joseph’s brothers finally began to speak to him, and each one finally gazed at the elephant in the room, the horrible sin they had tried to bury, and addressed it…

If we acknowledge our sins, then, since he is trustworthy and just, he will forgive them and purify us from all wrongdoing.  (1 John 1:9 Complete Jewish Bible)

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

 

Feast in the Midst of Famine

As the famine ravaged the land, and their supply of grain dwindled down, Jacob feared that his family would starve.  Therefore, he gathered his sons together and said, “Go back to Egypt and buy us a little more food.”

“Abba,” Judah replied sadly, as he gently gazed at the old man, who seemed to grow more and more frail, with each passing day, “The man was serious when he warned us, ‘You won’t see my face again unless your brother is with you.’  If you send Benjamin with us, we will go down and buy more food.  But if you don’t let Benjamin go, we won’t go either.  Remember, the man said, ‘You won’t see my face again unless your brother is with you.'”

5-they-get-home-and-tell-jacob

Jacob’s heart constricted, and he regarded each of his sons, before he finally settled his gaze on Benjamin, his youngest.  The heavy weight of pain that he had carried for years, seemed to grow heavier, as he contemplated losing yet another son, and tears flowed freely from his eyes.  “Why were you so cruel to me?” Jacob moaned.  “Why did you tell him you had another brother?”

“Abba,”  they gently replied.  “The man kept asking us questions about our family.  He asked, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’  So we answered his questions.  How could we know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here?'”  It grieved all of them to see what the anguish their sin had brought to their father.  If only they could go back and change it all, but that wasn’t possible.

How long, O Lord, must others suffer for our sins?” Judah silently prayed, as he gently laid his hand on Jacob’s shoulder.  Guilt and shame washed over him, for his part in bringing his father to this piteous state.  The results of his and his brothers’ evil acts were far worse than they could ever have imagined.  His abba was wasting away, not because of the famine, but because of their evil act of jealousy.  No longer the vibrant man he had once been, their Abba was now a shell of his old self.  He had grieved for Joseph for more than twenty years, after Judah and his brothers had given him a death sentence, and now, they were asking Jacob to trust them with Benjamin.  Who could blame him for his fear?

Judah spoke tenderly to his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will be on our way.  Otherwise, we will all die of starvation—and not only we, but you and our little ones.  I personally guarantee his safety.  You may hold me responsible if I don’t bring him back to you.  If that happens, let me bear the blame forever.  Abba,” he earnestly said, “if we hadn’t wasted all this time, we could have gone and returned twice by now.”

Jacob sighed and prayed,  “Which is worse, Adonai?  Losing Benjamin to his brothers’ wicked schemes?  Or watching him, and my other sons and grandchildren die a slow painful death before my very eyes, due to starvation, because I’m afraid to trust You?”  Jacob blew out a deep, shuddering sigh, as he answered Judah,  “Alright.  If it can’t be avoided, then at least do this.  Pack your bags with the best products of this land.  Take them down to the man as gifts—balm, honey, gum, aromatic resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds.  Also take double the money that was put back in your sacks, as it was probably someone’s mistake.  Then take your brother, and go back to the man.  May El Shaddai give you mercy as you go before the man, so that he will release Simeon and let Benjamin return.  But if I must lose my children, so be it,” Jacob said, as he drew in a quivering breath, and clutched his right fist over his heart, which pounded rapidly.

The brothers immediately packed their belongings, with Jacob’s gifts and double the money, as soon as he announced his decision, and headed to Egypt with Benjamin.  They watched over Benjamin protectively, as they made their way to Egypt, lest any harm fall upon him.  As soon as they arrived, the brothers sought out the governor, and presented themselves to him.

When he saw Benjamin with them, Joseph’s heart soared within his chest, and he informed the manager of his household, “These men will eat with me this noon.  Take them inside the palace.  Then go slaughter an animal, and prepare a big feast.”  So his manager did as he commanded him, and led the brothers to Joseph’s palace.

When they saw that they were being taken into Joseph’s palace, his brothers were terrified.  “It’s because of the money someone put in our sacks the last time we were here,” they said.  “He’s going to pretend we stole it, then seize us, make us slaves and take our donkeys.”

Fearfully, they approached the manager of Joseph’s household, and said, “Sir, we came to Egypt once before to buy food.  But as we were returning home, we stopped for the night and opened our sacks.  Then we discovered that each man’s money—the exact amount paid—was in the top of his sack!  Here it is; we have brought it back with us.  We also have additional money to buy  more food.  We have no idea who put our money in our sacks.”

The household manager smiled at the brothers.  “Relax.  Don’t be afraid.  Your God, the God of your father, must have put this treasure into your sacks.  I know I received your payment.”  Then he released Simeon and brought him out to them.

All of the brothers rejoiced when they saw Simeon, and took turns hugging him and patting one another on their backs.  The manager then led them into Joseph’s palace and gave them water to wash their feet.  He also provided food for their donkeys.  Informed that they would be eating here, they prepared their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon.

An overwhelming array of emotions filled Joseph when he came home that day, and his brothers bowed low to the ground before him, presenting him with gifts from their (his) homeland.  He felt great elation as he looked at his brother, Benjamin, who knew nothing of their brothers’ treachery, and great nostalgia for his father and his homeland when his brothers presented their father’s gifts to him.  He also felt some doubt and misgiving at his brothers’ seemingly changed hearts.  Had their hearts truly changed?  Or was their professed shame for betraying him, merely a ruse?  After receiving their gifts, he asked the brothers, “How is your father, the old man you spoke about?  Is he still alive?”  With bated breath, he awaited their answer, and anxiously prayed for his father’s health.

“Yes,” they replied.  “Our father, your servant, is alive and well,” and they bowed low again.

After he expelled a breath of relief, Joseph again looked at his brother Benjamin, the son of his own mother.  Feigning ignorance, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?”  When his brothers acknowledged that this was indeed their youngest brother, Joseph was overcome with emotion.  “May God be gracious to you, my son,” he gasped, before he rushed from the room and raced to his private room.

Tears began to run down his face, as soon as he exited the dining room, and raced to his room.  Joseph quickly slammed the door behind him, threw himself on his cushions and wept with great misery.  How he longed to hold Benjamin in his arms and shower his love on him…  He yearned to see and hold his father again…  And, despite their betrayal of him, his heart ached to love and forgive his other brothers, but could he trust them again?  Finally, after shedding many tears, Joseph regained control over his emotions, washed his face, and returned to the dining room where his brothers and  his cohorts were gathered.  Then he ordered the meal to be served.

Joseph told each of his brothers where to sit, and amazed them by seating them according to their age, from the oldest to the youngest.  The waiters served Joseph and his Egyptian cohorts at his own table, and his brothers were served at a separate table, because Egyptians despised Hebrews and refused to eat with them.  Then Joseph filled his brothers’ plates with food from his own table, giving Benjamin five times as much as he gave his other brothers, and they feasted and drank freely with him.

Adonai had indeed blessed these errant sons of Jacob, by allowing them to feast in the midst of famine.  For the first time in the more than twenty years since their great sin against Adonai and their brother, Joseph, the brothers felt hope arise within them.  Could it be that He had seen that their hearts were broken and contrite?  Had they prayed to Him as their descendant, David, would do one day?

Psalm 51
New Living Translation

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of Your unfailing love.
Because of Your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
    Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against You, and You alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in Your sight.
You will be proved right in what You say,
    and Your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But You desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
    You have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from Your presence,
    and don’t take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
    and make me willing to obey You.
13 Then I will teach Your ways to rebels,
    and they will return to You.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
    then I will joyfully sing of Your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,
    that my mouth may praise You.

16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
    You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice You desire is a broken spirit.
    You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
18 Look with favor on Zion and help her;
    rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then You will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit—
    with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings.
    Then bulls will again be sacrificed on Your altar.

 

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

 

When All Hope is Gone…

The burden Joseph’s brothers carried on their shoulders, when nine of them, and not ten, left Egypt was crushing.  “How are we going to tell Abba that Simeon is now imprisoned in Egypt, and their governor wants to see Benjamin as well?”  Reuben choked out, as he fought back the tears that flowed freely from his other brothers eyes.  As the eldest brother, he had to be strong for the others.  “This could kill him!”

“I know,” Judah sighed.  “But perhaps El Shaddai will show him mercy.  For it was we, who sinned against Him, when we sold Joseph into slavery and death, not Abba.  This punishment should be ours alone.”

“Maybe,”  Levi said.  “But I’ve noticed that every time we sin against El Shaddai, everyone, even the innocent, ends up suffering.  Look at Abba.  He has suffered enormously since Joseph died, and look at Benjamin.  He certainly committed no sin, and yet, he too, has suffered.  Since Joseph’s death, Abba won’t let him out of his sight.  He smothers Benjamin in his grief.”

The brothers nodded in agreement, then fell silent, as they made their way home, with their donkeys.  They made camp by a river, as the sun began to set, and a few collected firewood, while others led the donkeys to the river to drink.  Then, after the donkeys had their fill of water, one of them opened his sack to get some grain for his donkey, and discovered his money on top of the grain.  He face paled, and he began to tremble, as he called for his brothers to come.  “Look!  My money has been returned; it’s here in my sack!”

Their hearts sank, as they gazed at the money in his sack of grain, and they, too, began to tremble.  Fear filled their hearts and minds, and they asked each other, “What has God done to us?”  But no one had an answer to that question.  Needless to say, no one slept well that night, and they were up before dawn.  They quickly packed their belongings, and were headed home, just as the sky began to lighten.

When the brothers got home to the land of Canaan, they went to see their father, Jacob.  There was no point in putting things off.  “Did you get the grain?”  Jacob asked, expectantly.

“Yes Abba,” Reuben spoke for the group, and continued, “but the man who is governor of the land spoke very harshly to us.  He accused us of being spies scouting the land.  We told him that we are honest men, not spies.  We said that we are twelve brothers, sons of one father.  We told him that one brother is no longer with us, and the youngest is at home with our father in the land of Canaan,

“Then the man who is governor of the land said, ‘This is how I will find out if you are honest men.  Leave one of  your brothers here with me, and take grain for your starving families and go on home.  But you must bring your youngest brother back to me.  Then I will know you are honest men and not spies.  Then I will give you back your  brother, and you may freely trade in the land'”

Tears welled up in Jacob’s eyes, as he gazed at his sons.  “He took Simeon?”  Jacob whispered and the brothers nodded, with their eyes downcast.  Then they opened their sacks, and everyone saw the bag of money, which they had used to pay for the grain, in each man’s sack.  Jacob began to wail, and he mournfully ripped his robe, as terror swept over him and his sons. Then he exclaimed to them, “You are robbing me of my children!  Joseph is gone!  Simeon is gone!  And now you want to take Benjamin, too.  Everything is against me!”

Reuben knelt down in front of his father, and the tears he had kept at bay for so long, ran down his face and into his beard.  He gently placed his hands on his father’s shoulders and waited for Jacob to look into his eyes.  Then Reuben said to his father, “You may kill my two sons if I don’t bring Benjamin back to you.  I’ll be responsible for him, and I promise to bring him back.”

Overwhelmed by grief and anguish, Jacob had lost all hope.  He had forgotten that El Shaddai, the All Sufficient God, cared for him and his sons.  He forgot the visions and dreams he had received from El Shaddai over the years.  He forgot the many times El Shaddai had provided for him and his family.  He forgot the promises El Shaddai had made to him, his father, Isaac, and his grandfather, Abraham, before him.  In his pain, Jacob was blind to the many blessings El Shaddai had given him.  He only saw what he had lost. “My son will not go down with you,” he spat at Reuben.  “His brother, Joseph, is dead, and he is all I have left.  If anything should happen to him on your journey, you would send this grieving, white-haired man to his grave.”

Beloved reader, have you ever felt such searing pain and loss?  Have you been so blinded by grief that you are no longer able to even see the many blessings God has given you?  I have.  When such agony envelops you, it is impossible to rise above it, as wave after wave of despair encompasses you.  But thanks be to God!  Even in the midst of our suffering, He is with us, ready to heal and deliver us from those broken places, if we will seek His face.  When we are overwhelmed with hopelessness and grief, let’s cry out to God, as this psalmist did:

Psalm 42
Complete Jewish Bible

Just as a deer longs for running streams,
God, I long for you.
I am thirsty for God, for the living God!
When can I come and appear before God?

My tears are my food, day and night,
while all day people ask me, “Where is your God?”
I recall, as my feelings well up within me,
how I’d go with the crowd to the house of God,
with sounds of joy and praise from the throngs
observing the festival.

My soul, why are you so downcast?
Why are you groaning inside me?
Hope in God, since I will praise Him again
for the salvation that comes from His presence.
My God, when I feel so downcast,
I remind myself of You
from the land of Yarden, from the peaks of Hermon,
from the hill Mizar.
Deep is calling to deep
at the thunder of Your waterfalls;
all Your surging rapids and waves
are sweeping over me.
By day Adonai commands His grace,
and at night His song is with me
as a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God my Rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
under pressure by the enemy?
10 My adversaries’ taunts make me feel
as if my bones were crushed,
as they ask me all day long,
‘Where is your God?’ ”

11 My soul, why are you so downcast?
Why are you groaning inside me?
Hope in God, since I will praise Him again
for being my Savior and God.

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

 

Once Saved, Always Saved?

A friend of mine, Tammy Wallace Desantiago, posted the following question this morning on Facebook, while I was in the midst of writing something else.  After reading and replying to this question, I felt the Spirit leading me to address this issue more fully in a post.  Here is the question Tammy asked:

What is your thought on once saved always saved??
Not just your opinion but what is your scripture to cause you to stand firm on that belief?

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells us a parable about a farmer who sows seed into his field…

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”  (Matthew 13:3-9  NLT)

Jesus explained this parable to His disciples as follows:

18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds:19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”  (Matthew 13:18-23 NLT)

The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingom but don’t understand it, and so the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts.  We all know people like this.  These people have never tasted and seen the goodness of God.  They are not, and have not ever been saved.  That’s easy enough for us to understand.

The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom, and they immediately receive it joyfully.  But because their roots are shallow, and not deep, they fall away, as soon as there are troubles in their lives, or if they are persecuted for Christ’s sake.  Now, some might say that these people were never “really” saved, but that isn’t what Jesus said.  He said these people hear the message and immediately receive it joyfully.  The problem isn’t non-belief.  There was no question of their salvation.  The problem is that their roots aren’t deep enough… So what does that mean?

The problem with these people is that their faith is weak.  There are so many trials and tribulations in this world that we live in,  and it is so easy to be overcome by them.  However, if we are rooted in Christ’s love, we can withstand those adversities in our lives, and become stronger.  However, if our roots are too shallow, we will be devastated by the heartaches that come against us, and we will lose what little faith we had.  I believe that is why the Apostle Paul prayed the following prayer for the believers at Ephesus, and it is why I pray this prayer for my loved ones, new believers, and myself as well:

14 This is the reason I kneel in the presence of the Father 15 from whom all the family in heaven and on earth receives its name. 16 I’m asking God to give you a gift from the wealth of His glory. I pray that He would give you inner strength and power through His Spirit. 17 Then Christ will live in you through faith. I also pray that love may be the ground into which you sink your roots and on which you have your foundation18 This way, with all of God’s people you will be able to understand how wide, long, high, and deep His love is. 19 You will know Christ’s love, which goes far beyond any knowledge. I am praying this so that you may be completely filled with God.

20 Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us. By this power He can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine21 Glory belongs to God in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time and eternity! Amen.  (Ephesians 3:14-21 GW)

The soil in the next part of the parable was full of thorns, which represent those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly, the message is crowded out by the worries of life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.  Those of you, who preach a prosperity gospel, and those who are supposedly “working for God,” though all the while, you are seeking your own wealth, whilst lining your pockets, be warned!  

24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.

25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.

34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”  (Matthew 6:24-34 NLT)

These people hear the word and they believe it, but somewhere along the way, other things get in the way.  They worry about making ends meet… about paying the bills… about what they will eat… about how they will eat…  what they will wear… and on and on.  These people worry… a lot.  These people need more… more money… more power… more respect… What they have just isn’t enough…  And sadly, for these people, God just isn’t enough.  It wasn’t that they weren’t saved.  It’s just that Jesus isn’t enough for them, and so they turn away to other things…

Then, there are those who hear the word, and the soil of their heart is good, so their roots go down deep.  The faith of these people is strong, but they don’t take it for granted. Daily, these people work out their faith, seeking God in everything.  These people allow God to complete the good work He has begun in them, but, they, too, are faced with choices everyday.  Will I continue to follow Christ?  Or will I go my own way?  The deeper your roots go, the easier it is  to make the right choice, but the choice is still yours to make, and there are some, who have that close, intimate relationship with Christ, and after many years of following Him faithfully, have chosen to walk away from Him…

Do you doubt this?  Do you still believe that once you are saved, you are always saved?  How would you explain this scripture, then?

For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come— and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing Him to the cross once again and holding Him up to public shame.  (Hebrews 6:4-6  NLT)

One who was once enlightened (i.e. – someone who has “seen the light” or been saturated {imbued} with saving knowledge), who has experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit (who only dwells in those who are saved), can indeed turn away from God.  It’s heartbreaking, but don’t fool yourselves by thinking or believing, “Well, they weren’t really saved to begin with.”  According to this scripture, those who are, in fact, saved, can turn away from God, because everyone, including believers, can choose to accept or reject Him.

Once Saved Always Saved

Beloved reader, don’t be fooled by the false doctrine of “Once Saved, Always Saved.”  This word may not sit well with many of you, but it is kinder to speak the truth, though it is painful, rather than be silent, allowing you to continue believing a lie that is straight from the pit of hell, and watch you die.

I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when He comes to set up His Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths(2 Timothy 4:1-4  NLT)

Beloved reader, don’t be fooled into thinking that once you are saved, you are always saved.  If you believe this, what is to stop you from living in sin, just as the rest of the world does?  You are a slave to whomever or whatever you serve.  If you live your life seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, you are a slave of God.  However, if you believe that salvation allows you to live sinfully, you are a slave to sin, not Christ, and your Father is not God, but the Satan, the father of lies, whom you have chosen to believe instead.

Don’t be deceived.  We all have a choice.  Therefore, I leave you with the same choice Moses gave to Israel:

11 “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not beyond your reach. 12 It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ 13 It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ 14 No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.

15 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. 16 For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep His commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in His ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.

17 “But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, 18 then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.

19 Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! 20 You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and committing yourself firmly to Him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  (Deuteronomy 30:11-20  NLT)

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

The Heavy Weight…

When Jacob’s ten eldest sons left Canaan for Egypt, guilt weighed heavily on each of them.  Foremost in their hearts and minds was the image of their father, so frail and old now, with fear for his youngest son, Benjamin etched in his face, as he refused to let him travel with them.  Their father had been such a strong and vital part of their lives, as he cared for them and their mothers over the years.  He had always had such a strong, unshakable faith in El Shaddai, but in the years since Joseph’s death, even his faith seemed to have failed him.

Nothing had worked out as they had imagined it would.  Their evil actions hadn’t brought them more of their father’s love, without Joseph there to steal it.  Instead, it had brought them more pain and loneliness.  Instead of earning their father’s undivided love, they had earned his fear and distrust, as well as a heavy burden of guilt, like a massive weight that threatened to break them, as they carried it with them everywhere they went.  Indeed, in the twenty years since they had sinned against their brother, Joseph, their burdens had only grown heavier.

When they entered into Egypt, they learned that they would have to ask Egypt’s governor to allow them to purchase the grain needed for their families to survive, due to the severity of the famine.  Therefore, they lined up, behind the others who had gathered to collect the much needed grain.  Finally, after waiting for many long hours, the ten brothers stood before the governor of Egypt, and immediately dropped to their knees and bowed before him.

Joseph, the governor, paled at the sight of his ten older brothers, bowing down before him.  He recognized them instantly, and caught his breath, as his heart pounded furiously within his chest. It felt like it might break free from his ribs.  As the lump in his throat grew, Joseph fought the tears that threatened to spill.  Looking at them now, bowed down before him, he couldn’t help but remember the dreams he’d had as a youth, in which, his brothers had bowed down to him.

Struggling to pull himself together, Joseph’s voice was harsh as he spoke to his brothers, “Where are you from?”

“We come from the land of Canaan,” they replied.  “We have come to buy food.”

Although he had immediately recognized his brothers, they didn’t recognize Joseph, and why should they?  In their minds, they imagined that he had probably died, or at the very least, was still a slave to a foreign master.  Joseph didn’t reveal himself to his brothers.  Instead, he pretended to be a stranger, and said to them, “You are spies!  You have come to see how vulnerable our land has become.”

How rigidly he must have held himself, so as not to break down in front of these brothers that he had loved as a child, only to be betrayed by them when he was just a teenager.  Beloved reader, have you known the pain of betrayal at the hands of a family member?  If so, surely you can understand how difficult it must have been for Joseph to maintain control of his emotions.  How conflicted he must have felt.  For, on the one hand, he loved these brothers, and he must have longed for news of their family.  Yet, on the other hand, he must have felt an intense explosion of rage welling up within him, to see his betrayers, for the first time in twenty years.

Proverbs 29:11
Complete Jewish Bible

A fool gives vent to all his feelings,
    but the wise, thinking of afterwards, stills them.

Fear gripped the brothers’ hearts, and they quickly responded to Joseph’s accusation, “No, my lord!  Your servants have simply come to buy food.  We are all brothersmembers of the same family.  We are honest men, sir!  We are not spies!”

Joseph continued his charade.  “Yes, you are!  You have come to see how vulnerable our land has become,” he insisted.

“Sir,” the brothers replied, desperate to make him understand, “there are actually twelve of us.  We, your servants, are all brothers, sons of a man living in the land of Canaan.  Our youngest brother is back there with our father right now, and one of our brothers is no longer with us.”

Still, Joseph insisted, “As I said, you are spies!  This is how I will test your story.  I swear by the life of Pharaoh that you will never leave Egypt unless your youngest brother comes here!  One of you must go and get your brother.  I’ll keep the rest of you here in prison.  Then we’ll find out whether or not your story is true.  By the life of Pharaoh, if it turns out that you don’t have a younger brother, then I’ll know you are spies.”

So, Joseph put them all in prison for three days.  How tormented he must have been, as all of the emotions that he thought were long gone, came rushing over him.  It was like reliving his brothers’ betrayal and brutality all over again.  How he must have cried out to ‘Elyon, to strengthen him, and give him wisdom.

Psalm 3
New King James

Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!
Many are they who rise up against me.
Many are they who say of me,
“There is no help for him in God.” Selah

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah

I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around.

Arise, O Lord;
Save me, O my God!
For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone;
You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.
Salvation belongs to the Lord.
Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah

On the third day of their imprisonment, Joseph spoke to them again.  “Look, I am a God-fearing man.  If you do as I say, you will live.  If you really are honest men, choose one of your brothers to remain in prison.  The rest of you may go home with grain for your starving families.  But you must bring your youngest brother back to me.  This will prove that you are telling the truth, and you will not die.”  The brothers agreed to Joseph’s terms.

Speaking among themselves, the weight of their burden of guilt was evident, when they said, “Clearly we are being punished because of what we did to Joseph, long ago.  We saw his anguish when he pleaded for his life, but we wouldn’t listen.  That’s why we’re in this trouble.”

Tears ran down Reuben’s face, as he asked, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?  But you wouldn’t listen.  And now we have to answer for his blood!”

His brothers, who still didn’t know Joseph’s true identity, had no way of knowing that he understood every word that they had spoken, for he had been speaking to them through an interpreter.  Upon hearing his brothers’ words, he turned and walked away from them and began to weep.  The emotions, and the weight he had been carrying for more than twenty years, was simply too much to bear, as his brothers openly spoke of his betrayal.

So deep was their own fear and anguish, that the brothers took no notice when Joseph turned away from them.  They were all lost in the midst of a storm that had been brewing for more than twenty years.  When Joseph regained his composure, he spoke to them again, and chose Simeon from among them.  He ordered Simeon to be tied up before their eyes.

Then, Joseph ordered his servants to fill his brothers’ sacks with grain.  He also gave them secret instructions to return each brother’s payment at the top of his sack, and he gave them supplies for their journey home.  So, although ten brothers had started on the journey to Egypt, only nine returned home, and the weight they carried grew heavier with each step…

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

The Elephant in the Room

Can you imagine Jacob’s torment?  Can you imagine the pain he must have felt, when his sons returned to his tent, the day they sold their brother Joseph into slavery?  He thought his son was dead, and the pain nearly killed him.  It aged him overnight.

I wonder how much greater his pain would have been, had he known what really happened to Joseph?  Do you think he ever suspected foul play at the hands of his older sons?  Do you ponder whether Jacob ever doubted the validity of what his ten oldest sons claimed had happened to Joseph?  The bible doesn’t say for sure, but I reckon Jacob suspected more than he let on.  Yet, as in most dysfunctional families, too often, there are just some things that are too painful to be spoken out loud.

Jacob must have known how much his other sons hated Joseph, for they had made no attempt to hide it from anyone.  They openly mocked him at every turn, and their jealousy of Joseph was evident to all.  It must have seemed dubious to Jacob, when Joseph turned up dead, after he sent him to check up on his brothers.  After all, he knew full well, when he sent Joseph to them, how angry they already were with Joseph.  After all, hadn’t Joseph given their father a bad report about them, just days earlier?  And what about the beautiful robe Jacob had given to Joseph?  It was the same robe his ten older brothers later returned to Jacob, covered with blood.  Their rancor towards their brother had known no bounds, when Jacob rewarded Joseph with that beautiful robe.  Indeed, Jacob had made it abundantly clear, over and over again, that Joseph was his favorite son, which caused their loathing for Joseph to burn even deeper.

Elephant-in-the-room (1)

Yet, as in most dysfunctional families, they ignored the proverbial “elephant in the room,” and no one ever addressed the issue.  The ten eldest sons never spoke directly to their father about the pain he had caused them, in showing favoritism towards Joseph.  Instead, they allowed their bitterness to fester, turning into a poison that blackened their souls, until their hearts turned violent.

Indeed, this wasn’t the first time that these ten sons of Jacob had turned violent.  They had slaughtered and plundered an entire town, after a man named Shechem, the prince of that town, raped their sister, Dinah.  True, what Shechem had done was evil, but what these ten sons of Jacob had done, was no less evil.  For they had tricked the men into believing that they had forgiven Shechem, and they would allow him to marry their sister, Dinah, if he, and his entire town would be circumcised.

Eager to make amends and marry Dinah, Shechem, and his father, King Hamor, agreed to the deal, and when they met with their council, they agreed too.  Therefore, all of the men in that community were circumcised.  Then, three days later, while all of the men were still in great pain from their circumcisions, the ten eldest sons of Jacob attacked and killed every single male, and afterwards, they took all of the town’s livestock, and enslaved the women and children who remained.

elephant-in-the-room

Yes, Jacob surely knew the violence his oldest sons were capable of, but, again, like the proverbial elephant in the room, he didn’t discuss his suspicions with them, because to actually hear the truth spoken aloud was too much for him to contemplate.  And now, as famine swept across the land, Jacob worried about his family’s fate.  There was no grain to be obtained in all of Canaan, but he had heard that there was grain available in the land of Egypt, so he assembled all of his remaining sons, and had a family meeting.

“We’re going to starve if we don’t get some grain,” Jacob spoke bluntly to his sons, who exchanged glances with one another, but said nothing.  “Why are you standing around looking at one another?” he asked impatiently.  “You know what I say is true.  However, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt.  Therefore, I want you to go down there and buy enough grain to keep us alive.  Otherwise, we’ll all die.”

“You’re right Abba,” Benjamin, Jacob’s youngest son, replied.  “We must go to Egypt right away.  Come brothers, let’s pack up and leave for Egypt at first light tomorrow.”

“NO!”  Jacob shouted.  “Benjamin, you will stay with me, and your brothers will go to Egypt.

“But Abba,” Benjamin protested.

“NO!”  Jacob shouted once again, as he fought the panic that boiled up within him.  His heart pounded loudly in his ears as he drew a shuddering breath, trying to slow his heart rate, and speak calmly.  “No, my son,” Jacob repeated.  “This is a job for your older brothers to handle.  You must stay with  me.”

Benjamin looked closely at his father, and noted the terror in his eyes.  Then he knelt down beside Jacob, and gently hugged him.  “Alright Abba,” he whispered softly.  “I will obey and stay here with you.”

Jacob’s oldest sons exchanged guilty glances with one another, for they, too, had seen the fear and pain in their father’s eyes, and they knew that they were the cause of his agony.  Though no one said a word, once again ignoring the elephant in the room, the brothers knew that Jacob wouldn’t allow Benjamin to travel alone with them, for fear they might harm him, just as they had harmed Joseph.  

Both Jacob and his ten eldest sons felt guilty.  Yet, still, they didn’t speak of what they had done.  Each was trapped in his own torment, and it seemed there was no hope for redemption.  Each one was a captive of a moment that had long since passed. Jacob was trapped in the moment when he had chosen to love Joseph more than all of his other sons.  In doing so, he had rejected their love as insignificant.  His rejected sons were trapped in the moment, when they had taken their anger out on the wrong person, their brother, Joseph, rather than confronting their father for neglecting to love them as a father should.  They were all, utterly without hope.

Yet, in the midst of all this turmoil and anguish, El Shaddai had a plan.  It was time for each one, Jacob and every one of his sons, to face the elephant in the room, and address it once and for all.

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Nothing Compares…

Adonai had truly blessed him.  Joseph smiled as he gazed at his wife, Asenath, who slept on their sleeping mat, her arms gently cradling their second son, Ephraim, who was born the day before.  Her belly was still swollen from carrying their son, but Joseph didn’t care if her belly stayed that way, for she was by far the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, and she was his.  After giving her a gentle peck on the cheek, Joseph slid from the covers, and walked around to the other side of their sleeping mat.

As he knelt down beside his wife and his newborn babe, he was struck by how tiny and perfect the child was.  He had ten fingers and ten toes, each one with nails.  He had long dark eyelashes, like his imma.  He smiled as the babe suckled in his sleep, though nothing was in his mouth.

Joseph stood and tiptoed quietly to the cradle, where his firstborn son, was also sleeping, his long, dark lashes resting quietly on his chubby cheeks.  He gently caressed Manasseh’s soft cheek, smiling as the toddler gave a contented sigh.  After leaning over and placing a gentle kiss on Manasseh’s forehead, Joseph quietly exited the bedroom, and walked onto the balcony, where he knelt down on his prayer mat.

Psalm 30
Complete Jewish Bible

I will exalt You, Adonai, because You drew me up;
You didn’t let my enemies rejoice over me.
Adonai my God, I cried out to You,
and You provided healing for me.
Adonai, You lifted me up from Sh’ol;
you kept me alive when I was sinking into a pit.

Sing praise to Adonai, you faithful of His;
and give thanks on recalling His holiness.
For His anger is momentary,
but His favor lasts a lifetime.
Tears may linger for the night,
but with dawn come cries of joy.

Once I was prosperous and used to say,
that nothing could ever shake me —
when You showed me favor, Adonai,
I was firm as a mighty mountain.
But when You hid Your face,
I was struck with terror.

I called to You, Adonai;
to Adonai I pleaded for mercy:
“What advantage is there in my death,
in my going down to the pit?
Can the dust praise You?
Can it proclaim Your truth?
10 Hear me, Adonai, and show me Your favor!
Adonai, be my helper!”

11 You turned my mourning into dancing!
You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my well-being can praise You and not be silent;
Adonai my God, I will thank You forever!

“How my lips praise You, the living God, who saw me in my time of trouble, and in Your great mercy, You heard my cries and delivered me from all my fears!  When my brothers tried to kill me, You, O Lord, heard my cries, and saved my life from the dark pit.  When they sold me into slavery, even then, O Lord, You heard my desperate pleas, and sent me to a kind master.  In the midst of slavery, You  set me over my master’s entire household.  Then, when his evil wife tried to seduce me, You kept me from being killed for a crime I had not committed.  Even in the dark dungeon, where I became a prisoner, lower than a slave, You raised me up, and gave me charge over the prison.

“Then, if that were not enough, You raised me again, from the dark dungeon, to Pharaoh’s second in command, over the entire nation of Egypt!  You gave me a beautiful wife, who loves me, and a son, Manasseh, to help me forget all my troubles, and my father’s family, who betrayed me.  And now, You have blessed me, yet again, with another son, Ephraim, for you have made me fruitful in this, the land of my grief.

“Who is like You, O Adonai?  Who can compare to You, my King?  Indeed, there is no one like You, Adonai.  For You are King of the Nations, and none can compare to You.  Indeed, there is no other god who would stoop so low, as to lift a prisoner and a slave from his prison!

“Adonai, I give You thanks, not only for what You have done for me, but for the seven years of abundance You have given to my wife’s people.  As the time of famine draws nigh, El Shaddai, thank You for providing for our needs by giving us these seven years of abundance, to carry us through the the dreadful famine.  Thank You for seeing to it that my children will not go hungry, nor will the people of this land, for You have provided for all our needs.

“And Adonai, I would be remiss, if I failed to ask for Your hand of blessing to fall on my father, Israel, and his household, especially Benjamin, my full brother.  Protect them, ‘Elyon, from all evil, and deliver them from the coming famine.

“O Adonai, guard my heart from bitterness.  Please, ‘Elyon, bless the brothers who betrayed me also, for my father loves them deeply, and I would not want him to suffer anymore pain and anguish by losing yet another son.  Therefore, please protect Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar and Zebulon.  Most importantly, El Shaddai, protect Benjamin from all harm, especially at the hands of our brothers.  Don’t let them do to him, what they did to me, Adonai!  Protect him.

“Adonai, You alone are worthy of praise.  You alone are holy and just.  In You alone, I have placed my trust, and I know that nothing in heaven or on earth, nothing in the oceans and the seas, nor in the graves, indeed nothing on the highest peak of the highest mountain, nor nothing in the lowest valley can compare to You.  It is to You that I pledge my life, O Adonai, for nothing compares to You.

“In times of feasting, I will praise You.  Even in the coming famine, still, my lips will sing Your praises, for nothing compares to the greatness of knowing You, Adonai!”

Rising from his prayer mat, Joseph lifted his gaze towards the heavens, smiling, as he heard Ephraim’s wails from the bedroom.  “No, Adonai, nothing compares to You!”

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Not Forgotten…

In the time after the cupbearer’s release, Joseph ran the prison like a well-oiled machine.  He cared for the prisoners, the guards and even the accounting and record books.  Indeed, no other prison or business for that matter, ran so smoothly, for the Lord continued to be with Joseph and bless him.

While he toiled in prison, a full two years later, Pharaoh had two dreams one night, that deeply troubled him.  When day broke, Pharaoh arose, and immediately sent for all of Egypt’s magicians and wise men to seek an interpretation of his disturbing dreams.  However, not one of them was able to interpret the dreams’ meaning to him, which caused him even more anxiety.  “Is there no one in this entire land that can help me?” he cried out.

“Your majesty,” the chief cupbearer finally spoke up.  “Forgive me, for today, I am reminded of my failure.  Do you remember when you were angry with your officials, and arrested the chief baker and me, sire?”  At Pharaoh’s impatient nod, the cupbearer quickly continued.  “One night, while we were in prison, both the baker and I had dreams, which greatly disturbed us.  The next morning, a young Hebrew man, who was a servant of the captain of the guard, came to care for us, and asked why we were so downcast.  So we told him our dreams, and he interpreted each one of our dreams individually, for us.  What’s more, those dreams came to pass, just as he had prophesied.  I was restored to my office, and the baker was impaled.”

“This is true?”  Pharaoh asked.  At the cupbearer’s solemn nod, Pharaoh summoned Joseph to court.

Joseph, meanwhile, was in the midst of his morning prayers, before beginning his duties as the warden’s assistant. 

Psalm 13
Complete Jewish Bible

How long, Adonai?
Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long must I keep asking myself what to do,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long must my enemy dominate me?

Look, and answer me, Adonai my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death.
Then my enemy would say, “I was able to beat him”;
and my adversaries would rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in Your grace,
my heart rejoices as You bring me to safety.
I will sing to Adonai, because He gives me
even more than I need.

 

Then, as he finished his prayers, guards from the royal palace came and led him quickly out of the dungeon.  After Joseph shaved himself and changed his clothes, he was led into Pharaoh’s presence, where he respectfully knelt, his heart pounding frantically.  “O Adonai,” he silently prayed.  “Protect me and deliver me from my foes.  Give me wisdom, to know when to speak and when to be silent.  Adonai, let me speak Your words, and not my own.”

“Last night, I had two dreams,” Pharaoh told Joseph, “and there is no one here, who can interpret them, but I was told that you are an interpreter of dreams.  Is this true?”

“Pharaoh, I am not the interpreter of dreams.  El Shaddai is the giver and interpreter of dreams.  If you will share your dream with me, El Shaddai will give you an answer that will give you peace,” Joseph said gently.

Pharaoh's Dream 1

“Very well,”  Pharaoh responded.  “In my dream, I stood at the edge of the river, and I saw seven fat and sleek cows emerge, and they fed on the swamp grass.  After they came, seven more cows emerged from the river, but these cows were sickly and emaciated.  I’ve never seen such a sorry group of cows in all of Egypt!  Then, the scrawny, miserable cows ate up the seven fat cows, but even after they’d devoured them, you would never guess they’d had anything to eat at all.  For they were still as miserable and sorry looking as they were before they ate.

Pharaoh's Dream 2

“At this point, I awakened, but I quickly drifted off to sleep again, and I had another dream.  In this dream, I saw seven full ripe ears of grain growing out of a single stalk, and after that, I saw seven more ears of grain spring up, but they were thin and shriveled up by the east wind.  And then, right before my eyes, I saw the shriveled ears swallow up the seven ripe ears of grain!

“This morning, when I awakened, I summoned my magicians and wise men, and I shared these dreams with them, but not one of them could explain them to me.  Are you able to interpret these dreams?”  Pharaoh questioned Joseph.  

Joseph listened intently to what Pharaoh shared, while also listening to what the Spirit of the Lord spoke to his heart.  Now, he felt the peace that only comes from ‘Elyon, as he drew in his breath and began to speak.  “Pharaoh’s dreams are the same.  God has told Pharaoh what He is about to do.”

Joseph spoke with the authority that only comes from God, and Pharaoh and his counselors all leaned forward, to hear every word he uttered.  “The seven healthy cows and the seven good ears of grain represent seven years.  Likewise, the seven scrawny cows and the seven blighted ears of grain also represent seven years of famine.  This is what ‘Elyon, has shown Pharaoh He is about to do.

“There will be seven years of abundance throughout the entire land of Egypt, but afterwards, there will be seven years of famine.  Indeed, the famine will be so dreadful, that Egypt will forget all of the abundance from the previous seven years.  Indeed, the famine will consume the land, and it will be truly disastrous.

“Do you wonder why this dream was doubled for Pharaoh?  It is because the matter has already been decreed by Elohim, and it will happen according to His word very soon.

“Therefore, Pharaoh should look for a wise and discreet man to put in charge of the land of Egypt, so that he can appoint supervisors over the land to receive a twenty percent tax on all of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven years of abundance.  All of the food produced during the coming seven years of abundance should be gathered.  Some should be used for food in the cities, and the rest should be stored.  This will be the land’s food supply for the seven years of famine that will follow the seven years of abundance, so that the people do not perish as a result of the famine.”

Joseph’s demeanor and his wise suggestions impressed Pharaoh and all of his officials.  Pharaoh looked at his officials and asked, “Can we find anyone else like him? The Spirit of God lives in him!”  His officials agreed wholeheartedly with Pharaoh, so Pharaoh released Joseph from his position as a slave and prisoner that day, and placed him in command of all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself.

“There is no one as wise and discerning as you,” Pharaoh told Joseph.  “Therefore, today, I am placing you in charge of my entire household.  You will rule over all my people, and they will obey what you say.  Only when I rule from my throne, will I be greater than you.”  Then, removing his signet ring from his finger, Pharaoh placed it on Joseph’s finger and continued, “This day, you will not only rule my household, but the whole land of Egypt.  I, Pharaoh, decree that without your approval no one is to raise his hand or his foot in all the land of Egypt.  Furthermore, your name shall henceforth be Zaphenath-paneah.” 

Pharaoh then called his servants to bring him fine linen clothing, and a gold chain, which he placed around Joseph’s neck.  Pharaoh also gave Joseph a wife, whose name was Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of On.  So, at the age of thirty years, Joseph took charge of the entire land of Egypt, serving in the court of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.

Afterward, Pharaoh sent some of his servants to the royal stables, to bring his second best chariot to Joseph, telling him ride the chariot throughout the land of Egypt.  As Joseph rode the chariot through the streets of Egypt, his servants ran before him, shouting, “Bow down!” to the citizens of the land.  Thus, when Joseph left Pharaoh’s presence, he inspected the entire land of Egypt.  

In the midst of all that was happening around him, Joseph found time to give thanks to Almighty God.  For though others may have forgotten him, the Lord had not forgotten him.

Beloved reader, do you think the Lord has forgotten you?  Do you feel as though you are alone in your circumstances?  Fear not, for though a woman may forget her child, God will not forget you.  If you continually seek Him, you will find Him.  He has a plan for you, His beloved child, even in the midst of the worst circumstances.  You are not forgotten.

Isaiah 49:14-15
New Living Translation

 

14 Yet Jerusalem says, “The Lord has deserted us;
    the Lord has forgotten us.”

15 “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child?
    Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?
But even if that were possible,
    I would not forget you!”

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Forgotten…

He rose early, as he did every day, to pray and give thanks to the Almighty, before he set about his work…

Psalm 5:2-4
Complete Jewish Bible

Give ear to my words, Adonai,
consider my inmost thoughts.
Listen to my cry for help,
my king and my God, for I pray to You.
Adonai, in the morning You will hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my needs before You
and wait expectantly.

Because he had found favor with God, and with the prison warden, Joseph was awarded his own cell, which, though it was still a prison cell, afforded him much needed privacy.  Thus, he was able to spend uninterrupted time alone with ‘Elyon in the mornings and every evening, when he retired.

Joseph had quickly established a daily routine, when the warden promoted him, and he made sure that the prison was kept as clean as it was possible to keep a prison in that day and age.  Because of this cleanliness, pestilence and plagues within the prison had dropped dramatically.  Rodents no longer had free reign over the prison, but were soon killed and burned, which also cut down on disease within the inmate population.

Joseph also made sure that the prisoners were fed decent rations, twice daily, and that they had access to plenty of water.  He treated them as he wished to be treated, never taking more for himself than they were allotted.  Additionally, Joseph visited each of the prisoners daily, to ensure that no rioting or violence would break out.  He separated those prisoners who couldn’t get along with others, from the rest of the inmates, so that bullying and fighting were kept to a minimum.

The warden was both pleased and amazed at all that Joseph had accomplished in such a short time.  The prison was cleaner and healthier than it had ever been before, which made his job easier, and also made him look good to his superiors.

One morning, as Joseph made his rounds, visiting his fellow inmates, he saw the two most recent convicts sitting on their sleeping mats against the wall, looking utterly sad and dejected.  Both of them were servants of Pharaoh.  One had been his cupbearer, the one tasked with serving and tasting drinks, to ensure that Pharaoh was not poisoned.  The other man had been Pharaoh’s chief baker, the one in charge of all of the baked goods, both breads and pastries, served to Pharaoh.

Both of these men had somehow angered Pharaoh, and he’d had them cast into prison for their misdeeds.  They had been imprisoned for a few days already, and both had seemed resigned to their current status, until this particular morning, when Joseph checked on them.  Now, their distress, evident on each of their faces, concerned Joseph, so he gently asked them, “Why are you looking so sad today?”

The cupbearer replied, “We both had dreams last night, and we don’t understand them.”

“And here, in this prison, there is no one to interpret our dreams for us,” the chief baker chimed in.

Kneeling down on the floor with them, Joseph gently asked them, “Don’t interpretations belong to God?  Tell your dreams to me, please.”

Cupbearer Dream 1

The chief cupbearer then shared his dream with Joseph.  “I dreamed there was a vine in front of me, and the vine had three branches, which budded, and suddenly began to blossom.  Almost immediately after they bloomed, clusters of ripe grapes appeared on the branches.  I had Pharaoh’s cup in my hand, so I took the grapes and pressed them into his cup, and gave the cup to him.

The Lord gave Joseph, whom, you may recall, had experienced many dreams and interpretations in his own life, the wisdom he needed to interpret the cupbearer’s dream.  “This is what your dream means,” he told the cupbearer.  “The three branches are three days.”  Joseph gently reached across to the man, and lifted his his chin, so that his downcast eyes rose to meet Joseph’s gaze.  “Within three days, Pharaoh will lift your head and restore you to your position as his cupbearer, and you will be giving Pharaoh his cup, as you did before, but please don’t forget me, when everything is restored to you.  Please show me this kindness, by mentioning me to Pharaoh, so that he will release me, too, from this prison.  For the fact is that I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, though I did nothing to deserve such a fate, and even now, I am unjustly imprisoned, though I have done no wrong.

With gratitude and hope in his eyes, the cupbearer replied, “Indeed, good friend, I will remember you and tell Pharaoh about you, when I am released from this dreadful place.

Chief baker dream

Upon hearing the favorable interpretation of his friend’s dream, the chief baker eagerly shared his dream with Joseph.  “In my dream, there were three baskets of white bread on my head.  The top basket had all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds ate them out of the basket on my head.  What could this mean?

Joseph answered the man gently and honestly.  “The three baskets you saw are three days.  Within three days, Pharaoh will impale your body on a pole, and you will not even receive a burial, for the birds will devour your flesh.

“That can’t be!” the man sputtered, fearfully.

With tears of compassion in his eyes, Joseph softly touched the man’s shoulder.  “Seek Adonai while He is available, call on Him while He is still nearby.  Abandon your wicked ways and your evil thoughts; turn to Adonai, and He will have mercy on you; turn to my God, for He will freely forgive you.”

With bitterness boiling inside him, the angry baker spat out, “Seek your God?  What has He done for me, except sentence me to death?  No!  I will cry out to Ra, the sun god, to shine his blessings on me, and to Osiris, the god of the dead, to deliver me!  You can keep your God and your false interpretations.  Now leave me!

Joseph rose and left the cell sadly, for by rejecting El Shaddai, the man had surely sealed his fate.  Still, Joseph remembered both men in his prayers each day, hoping the chief baker would repent and seek Adonai, before he was executed, and also praying that the cupbearer would also seek and find Adonai.  He faithfully visited the men and served their rations to them, each day, and on the morning of the third day, he came to them once more.  “It is time now.  Please come with me,” Joseph ordered the men, as he unlocked their cell.  

Both men came forward, eager to leave their dark cell behind them.  “Where are you taking us?” the chief baker asked suspiciously.

“I am taking you to bathe and put on fresh clothing.  Then you will go to the Captain of the Guard, and he will take you to see Pharaoh,” Joseph replied.

“Good,” the baker replied.  “When I see Pharaoh, I will tell him how you mistreated me, and you will receive the punishment you are due!”  Joseph, with a heavy heart, for the man’s unrepentant soul, gave no response, as he led the two to the bathing area.  When they finished bathing, he then led them to the Captain of the Guard, who led both men away.  

Joseph had done all that he could for both men.  They were now in the hands of ‘Elyon, and of Pharaoh.

That third day was also Pharaoh’s birthday, and he had a lavish party for all of his officials.  The chief cupbearer and the chief baker were both led to the party, and both rejoiced as Pharaoh called them forth.  As they approached the throne, both knelt before Pharaoh, with their heads bowed and right fists against their hearts, in a pledge of loyalty to him. Pharaoh walked first to his chief cupbearer, and lifted his head, ordering him to stand.  He then restored him to his former position as chief cupbearer, and presented him with his royal chalice.  Tears ran down the cupbearer’s cheeks, as he accepted the chalice in gratitude.

Pharaoh then walked to the chief baker, and lifted his head.  The baker eagerly arose, and with malice for Joseph in his heart started to speak, but Pharaoh silenced him.  Then, just as Joseph had prophesied, Pharaoh ordered his former chief baker to be impaled.  The man was immediately hauled away and impaled, and, as Joseph had prophesied, there was no burial for the unrepentant baker, for the birds devoured his flesh.

All that Joseph had prophesied had come true, but, sadly, the cupbearer had forgotten him. So Joseph remained in prison, for a crime that had never been committed.

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

My Shelter

Cast down into darkness, the pain of his wounds was nothing compared to the anguish of his heart.  He grieved for his lost relationship with his master, whom he had loved and served faithfully, these many years, since he was sold into captivity.  “O Adonai,” Joseph wept.  “How could my master, Potiphar believe the wicked lies of that woman?  Yes, she is his wife, but he knows what she is like!  How could he believe such a thing of me?  You know, O Adonai that I was not even tempted by her wicked ways.  Indeed, I was repulsed by her.”

He remained in the place where he had been cast down for only the Almighty knows how long, but eventually, Joseph lifted his head from the cold and dank floor, looking around in the darkness of his new abode.  As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw the forms of others, imprisoned with him.  Some laughed and jested, using epithets, while others withdrew into themselves, staring blankly into space, neither seeing or hearing what went on around them.  Joseph shuddered.

“‘Elyon, You are the Most High God,” Joseph whispered softly.  “And it is in Your shelter, under Your wings that I dwell.  I will say of You, Adonai, that You are my refuge and my fortress, my God!  In You, I will trust.  You will rescue me from the trap of the hunter and the plague of calamities.  You cover me with Your pinions, and under Your wings I am sheltered.  Indeed, Your truth is my shield and protector.”

Joseph’s head snapped around to the noise of raucous laughter, as some of his fellow inmates kicked and bullied another, weaker prisoner, who tried to cover his head and his sides with his hands and arms, curling into a ball, to protect his vital parts.  Eyes snapping, Joseph arose to his full height, glaring down at the man’s tormentors. “Enough!” he spoke with all of the authority he had been given by ‘Elyon.  “Get away from this man immediately.  You will not torment him while I am here.”

The bullies looked up at Joseph, standing above them, so strong and mighty.  Then, without argument, they backed down.  He had spoken to them with such power, that none, not even the biggest bully dared to cross him.  Joseph, whispered his thanks to Adonai, as he knelt down to the man, who was still curled up in a ball.  Gently, he checked his wounds, ripping his own clothing, to bind the worst of them up.  The man thanked him profusely, and watched and listened, as Joseph continued to pray.

“I will not fear the terrors of night or the arrow that flies by day, or the plague that roams in the dark, or the scourge that wreaks havoc at noon.  A thousand may fall at my side, ten thousand at my right hand; but it won’t come near me.  I will keep my eyes open, and I will see how the wicked are punished.”

“Who is this god that you pray to?” the man asked Joseph.  “You speak to Him so familiarly, as though you knew Him.  Is He not offended, as other gods are, when you speak to him in such a personal way?”

Joseph smiled gently at the man.  “No, my friend.  My God is not offended.  He is the God of my fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He is the living God, the only true God.  Indeed, if you will makeAdonai, the Most High, who is my refuge, your dwelling-place, no disaster will happen to you, no calamity will come near your tent; for He will order His angels to care for you and guard you wherever you go.  They will carry you in their hands, so that you won’t trip on a stone.  Indeed, you will tread down lions and snakes, young lions and serpents you will trample underfoot.

“Because I love Him, He will rescue me; because I know His name, He will protect me.  I will call on Him, and He will answer me.  He will be with me when I am in trouble.  He will extricate me and bring me honor.  He will satisfy me with long life and show me  His salvation.  He will do the same for you, my friend, if you will make Him your dwelling place.

The entire prison had fallen silent, when Joseph shared this good news with his fellow inmate.  Now, many began to question Joseph about his God, even the warden, who had come to see why the prison had become so calm and quiet.  It was clear to Joseph that God had a plan for him, even in this dark and dirty place, and with his face set like flint, he spoke silently to God in his heart, “Yes Lord.  I will follow You and obey You, even in the darkest of prisons.”

Because of his love and obedience, the Lord was with Joseph, and showered him with His faithful love.  Joseph became the warden’s favorite that day, when he brought God’s peace into the often violent prison, and before long, he put Joseph in charge over all the prisoners, and everything that happened in prison.  Indeed, because the Lord continued to shower His love on Joseph, and the prison now ran so smoothly, the warden no longer had any worries…

Beloved, even in the midst of prison, Joseph was able to not only find peace, but to thrive, because he understood that His dwelling place was in the shelter of ‘Elyon, the Most High God, not the prison where he currently resided.  Where is your dwelling place?  No matter where you reside, you, too, can have peace that passes all understanding and even thrive, as long as you dwell in the shelter of the Most High God…

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Psalm 91
Complete Jewish Bible

You who live in the shelter of ‘Elyon,
who spend your nights in the shadow of Shaddai,
who say to Adonai, “My refuge! My fortress!
My God, in whom I trust!” —
He will rescue you from the trap of the hunter
and from the plague of calamities;
He will cover you with His pinions,
and under His wings you will find refuge;
His truth is a shield and protection.

You will not fear the terrors of night
or the arrow that flies by day,
or the plague that roams in the dark,
or the scourge that wreaks havoc at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand;
but it won’t come near you.
Only keep your eyes open,
and you will see how the wicked are punished.

For you have made Adonai, the Most High,
who is my refuge, your dwelling-place.
10 No disaster will happen to you,
no calamity will come near your tent;
11 for He will order His angels to care for you
and guard you wherever you go.
12 They will carry you in their hands,
so that you won’t trip on a stone.
13 You will tread down lions and snakes,
young lions and serpents you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he loves me, I will rescue him;
because he knows my name, I will protect him.
15 He will call on Me, and I will answer him.
I will be with him when he is in trouble.
I will extricate him and bring him honor.
16 I will satisfy him with long life
and show him my salvation.”

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

He’d been sold.  Again.  First his brothers had sold him to the slave traders, and now, Joseph had been sold to an Egyptian soldier!  How far he had fallen!  How had he become such a bitter taste in his brothers’ mouths?  Knowing that he would see neither his father or his brother Benjamin, who knew nothing of his half-brothers’ evil intent, again, brought tears to his eyes, every time he thought of them.

Depression threatened to overwhelm him, yet, by Adonai’s grace, he was still alive.  He was now a slave, and there was nothing he could do to change it.  “Elohim,” Joseph whispered softly, as he was led away to the Egyptian soldier’s home, “please be near me, lest I die in this pit of despair…  And comfort my father, Adonai.  Give him peace, and please, protect little Benjamin from the evil intents of our brothers.  El Shaddai, deliver all of us from evil!”

Each day Joseph worked hard for his owner, dropping to his sleeping mat at night, often too exhausted to dwell on his fate.  That doesn’t mean that he did not mourn for the loss of his father, his family and his freedom.  He deeply grieved for them, hiding his pain from everyone during the day, as He served his master, Potiphar, faithfully, and without complaint.  In the cover of darkness, at night, however, especially during his first year as a slave, Joseph often wept, as he pleaded with Almighty God to protect and bless him and his family.  The Lord answered Joseph’s prayers and showered him with His favor, so that everything he did succeeded, and Potiphar, being a shrewd man, recognized and rewarded Joseph’s success by giving him charge over his entire household and everything in it.

Despite his bitter circumstances, Joseph was truly grateful to Elohim for allowing His blessings to rain down on him, and he set his heart to walking in humble obedience to both God and his master.  Though he desperately missed his family, even his deceitful brothers, Joseph worked hard, refusing to give in to the depression that sometimes threatened to overwhelm him.  Several years went by, as Joseph worked for Potiphar, and he grew in strength and stature.  Indeed, Joseph was a very  handsome young man, and it wasn’t long before others noticed…

potiphars_wife

She began to watch him, as he went about his business in her husband’s house each day, seemingly oblivious to the effect he had on her.  She didn’t say anything to him at first.  She just watched him, and wondered what it would be like to be touched by such a man.  He wouldn’t be her first conquest, for her husband was gone much of the time, fighting battles and wars.  He often left her alone for months at a time.  Certainly, no one in their culture would blame her for her looking to others to satisfy her needs, for most of them did the same thing.

After some time had passed, the woman finally acted on her desires, and boldly walked up behind Joseph one day, while he was working. She placed her arms around his waist.  “Come sleep with me,” she softly whispered, her lips so close to his ear that he felt the moistness of her hot breath against it.

Startled, Joseph turned to look at her in shock.  Oh mistress, I couldn’t!  Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.”

Without waiting for a response, Joseph quickly spun around on his heel, and left the room.  “El Shaddai, protect me,” he gasped, when he was alone, as fear and trembling threatened to overtake him.  It felt like a weight had settled in the pit of his stomach, and Joseph felt the bile of nausea rising up in his throat.

From that time forth, Potiphar’s wife made it her mission to coax Joseph into having sex with her.  She refused to take no for an answer, and his rejection only seemed to fuel her desire for him.  Though he tried to avoid her, she somehow managed to find him again and again.

Finally, one day, when no one else was around, Potiphar’s wife came upon him and insisted that he have sex with her.  She walked up to him, and ordered him yet again to, “Come, have sex with me.”  Then, grabbing his cloak in her hands, she attempted to remove it.  Not knowing what else to do, Joseph slipped away from his cloak and ran away from the conniving woman.  She was furious.

Potiphar and his wife

Holding his cloak in her hand, she screamed in fury, and when her servants rushed to her aid, she said, “Look!  My husband has brought this Hebrew slave here to make fools of us!  He came into my room to rape me, but I screamed.  When he heard me scream, he ran outside and got away, but he left his cloak behind with me.” 

Later, when her husband returned home from work, she repeated the story to Potiphar, saying, “That Hebrew slave you’ve brought into our house tried to come in and fool around with me, but when I screamed, he ran outside, leaving his cloak with me!”

Joseph, meanwhile, was in his room, crying out to the Lord for mercy.  The situation had become unbearable.  He could see no way to escape from this untenable circumstance, but one thing was certain.  He would betray neither El Shaddai nor his master Potiphar.  As he bowed before the Lord, the door to his room burst open, and Potiphar entered, with rage on his face.

“I have given you everything!” he shouted.  “There is nothing that I have withheld from you, except my wife! Yet you betrayed my trust and tried to rape her.  Is this how you repay my kindness, slave?”

Joseph paled and his eyes grew wide at Potiphar’s angry accusation.  “Master,” he whispered softly.  “You have been very kind and generous to me, indeed, and I am very grateful.  I would never betray your trust in such an evil way.  Nor would I betray Elohim’s kindness to me.”

As Potiphar gazed into Joseph’s eyes, did he realize that his wife had duped him?  Because his wife’s accusations had been so public, and because no one took the word of a slave over his master’s wife, there was no trial.  Potiphar had to save face, even at Joseph’s expense.  Therefore, Joseph was thrust into prison, for a crime that he didn’t commit.  Indeed, he was cast into jail, for a crime that didn’t even exist, except in the twisted minds of his accusers.

Joseph in Prison

Beloved reader, things are not always what they seem.  In this day and age, we are told to believe certain things without question, even though there is no evidence to back them up.  We have seen false accusations against men and women abound in our country, and in others as well.  Yet, Joseph is a true life testimony that things are not always what they seem.

Jesus was wrongfully accused of blasphemy and many other crimes that simply were not true.  Yet, He was led away like a lamb to a slaughter, bearing the guilt and sins of you and me.  To many in the world, He seemed guilty.  Yet, things were not what they seemed…

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.  (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT)

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Tragedy? Or God’s Will?

Filled with hatred and rage, Joseph’s brothers had thrown him into an empty cistern (click here to learn more about cisterns).

ancient-cistern

Can you imagine the fear he felt at his brothers’ rage?  Joseph was simply doing his father’s bidding.  I’m sure he knew his brothers didn’t like him, because they had made no attempt to hide their disdain from him.  Yet, they were still his brothers, and, confident in his father’s love for him, I don’t imagine it ever occurred to Joseph that his brothers’ would ever want to kill him.

Yet, their hatred of him became nauseatingly obvious, when they grabbed him, ripping his coat off him and hurling bitter angry insults at him.  Joseph was only seventeen years old, and there were eleven of them against him.  This was no mere child’s play.  He could see the fury in their eyes, as they grabbed him.  There was no gentleness in their touch and no holding back their ire.  They hated him, and they wanted him to know it, as they roughly dragged him to the empty cistern and threw him in.

Can you imagine how Joseph must have pleaded with his brothers, begging them for mercy?  Can you imagine the utter terror he felt, as they ignored his pleas?  Then after being dragged by his brothers, he was forced into the small opening of an empty cistern, falling, who knows how many feet to the bottom?  I can picture them covering the cistern, then walking away, while the boy cried out to them, still pleading for mercy.

Alone in the dark cistern, his throat raw from crying out to his brothers for who knows how long, do you think Joseph prayed?  I can picture his tear stained face pleading with El Shaddai for mercy, as it began to dawn on him that his brothers would show him none.  I imagine he thought of his father, weeping at the pain his death would cause the old man.

Then, probably after many hours, Joseph heard the sound of the cistern’s cover being rolled away.  I imagine his heart leapt to his throat, as hope filled his chest.  His brothers had returned!  They were sorry for their actions.  Praise YHWH (Yahweh), who had heard his prayers and answered them!  As light filled the dark chamber, I believe Joseph would have forgiven his brothers.  I can picture him grinning up at them, as he stood there, bloodied and dusty, with the stains of his tears still on his cheeks.  Did he thank his brothers for their mercy, as they dropped a rope down, for him to tie around his waist, so they could pull him up?

Did his joy turn into fear once more, as they drew him up, and he saw the same hatred in their eyes as before?  Did he fear they were going to kill him?  As he looked from one brother to another, did Joseph even notice the Midianite traders at first?  Was it his brothers or the Midianites, who informed Joseph that he was now a slave?  Did his brothers smile in satisfaction, as they saw the look of horror on Joseph’s face, when the realization hit him?

Did Joseph see his brothers, with their backs turned against him, greedily dividing the 20 pieces of silver they had just earned for selling him?  Did he rue the day that he was born?  Did he wish for death at that point? Did his faith in the Most High God falter or remain strong?  How he must grieved the loss of his father, his home and yes, even his brothers!  What a tragedy for such a young man to endure!  Or was it a tragedy?  Could Joseph’s tribulation have simply been the fulfillment of God’s will?

Too often, in today’s church, we are taught to believe that if we are faithful, our lives will be filled with health and wealth.  But, if you truly study God’s word, you will discover that this is a lie straight from the pit of hell.  Jesus told His disciples, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33 NLT)

Beloved reader, His words weren’t just for His twelve original disciples.  They were for everyone who would follow Him, then and now.  We will face many trials and sorrows in our lives, just as Joseph did, just as Jesus did, and just as His disciples did.  If someone tells you any different, they are lying to you.

Joseph's Bloody Torn Coat

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are alone in your suffering.  Joseph wasn’t.  Imagine how Jacob, his father felt, when his sons returned to him with Joseph’s bloody, torn coat.  Those of us who are parents, can imagine nothing worse than losing one of our beloved children.  I can only begin to envision Jacob’s horror, as his elder sons informed him of his loss.  How he must have lamented sending his beloved son to check on his brothers that day!  Did he blame himself for Joseph’s loss?  While his other sons tried to comfort him, Jacob swore that he would go to his grave mourning for Joseph, as he wept.  (Read Genesis 37)

Did his brothers feel any remorse for their crime?  Did they, too, suffer for the sin they had committed against their brother, Joseph?  Do you think they felt pain for their father’s grief?  We’ll explore this another time.

But remember this.  As tragic as it was, if Joseph had never been sold into slavery, there would have been no need for Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, more than 400 years later.  So, was this truly a tragedy, or was it simply God’s will?  Is your life a tragedy?  Or is it, too, God’s will?

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Setting the Record Straight

Joseph is one of my favorite biblical characters.  I love reading and studying about him, and after hearing many sermons and theories preached about him and his brothers’ betrayal, I want to set the record straight, because too many preachers and teachers are giving Joseph a bad rap.  Let’s examine the scriptures in Genesis 37, and talk about what really happened between Joseph and his brothers.

These are the records of the generations of Jacob.

Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father.Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.  (Genesis 37:2-4 NASB)

Now, I have heard many preachers and teachers claim that because Joseph tattled on his brothers, and because his father loved him more, he somehow brought his brothers’ hatred and betrayal on himself.  Yet, I submit to you that it wasn’t Joseph’s fault that his father loved him more.  That was his father’s choice.  Further, I have heard it taught that in tattling on his brothers, Joseph earned their enmity.  However, there is nothing in the scriptures to indicate that Joseph lied, when he reported his brothers’ bad actions to his father.  Indeed, if his brothers had not been guilty of wrongdoing, Joseph would have given no bad report to his father.  Finally, look at verse 4 in this scripture passage.

His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.  (Genesis 37:4 NASB)

It is wrong to blame Joseph for his brothers’ hatred…  As a child and even as an adult, I felt that my sister was the favored child in our home, and I was very jealous of her.  Was it her fault that I was jealous? No.  That sin was mine alone, not hers.  And though she was loved more, that wasn’t her fault either, any more than it was my fault that I was loved less.  The choice to favor one child over another belonged to my mother and stepfather.

16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.  (James 3:16 NASB)

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of their father’s love for him, and that jealousy led to hatred, which, in turn, led to murderous intentions.  How is it that many church leaders are guilty of blaming the victim of their evil acts?

One night Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him more than ever. “Listen to this dream,” he said. “We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!”

His brothers responded, “So you think you will be our king, do you? Do you actually think you will reign over us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them.

Soon Joseph had another dream, and again he told his brothers about it. “Listen, I have had another dream,” he said. “The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!”

10 This time he told the dream to his father as well as to his brothers, but his father scolded him. “What kind of dream is that?” he asked. “Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground before you?” 11 But while his brothers were jealous of Joseph, his father wondered what the dreams meant.  (Genesis 37:5-10 NLT)

Now, I have also heard many preachers and teachers claim that Joseph was a braggart, and that is why his brothers attacked him.  Yet, again, this is not what I read in the scriptures.  Joseph simply shared his dreams with his brothers and his father.  He didn’t interpret the dreams to them.  They interpreted the dreams.  Did Joseph sin by sharing his dreams with his family?  No.  Not once do we read that God told him not to share his dreams, so he wasn’t being disobedient to the One who gave him the dreams.

Indeed, because they already hated him, his brothers only hated him more, because of his relationship with God and his father.  Joseph’s brothers hated him in the same way that Cain hated his brother, Abel.

When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but He did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected?You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”  (Genesis 4:3-7 NLT)

Cain’s jealousy of Abel led to hatred, which led him to murder his brother.  In the same way, Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy of him led to hatred, which led them to murder him in their hearts.  Indeed, only Reuben, Joseph’s oldest brother, stopped the rest of his brothers from murdering him.  Then, while Reuben was gone, they sold their younger brother into slavery, and lied to their father, telling him that his beloved son was dead.

Heed these words.  If you harbor jealousy in your heart, sooner or later, it will lead to hatred, which can lead to murder.  Are you jealous of someone?  Repent and confess your sin to God.  Ask Him to change your heart, and fill you with His love.  Jealousy and hatred will only lead to your death.  And don’t blame the one of whom you are jealous for your hatred.  Only you and I can choose whether to hate someone or not.

15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15 NLT)

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Are You Salty Enough?

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.”  (Matthew 5:13 NLT)

Can pure salt (sodium chloride) lose its flavor?  The answer to that question is no. However, take note of the question I asked.  I asked if pure salt could lose its flavor, and the answer is that in its purest form, it cannot.

However, in ancient times, before and when Jesus walked the earth, the salt collected was not always in its purest form. Indeed, many times it was contaminated with other minerals, and full of impurities.  Therefore, when eating of this contaminated salt, the partakers of that salt may have tasted the minerals and other contaminants, which would have given the salt an “off” flavor.

Also, salt is water soluble.  Therefore, in a humid climate, salt that has been exposed to condensation and water could be dissolved, leaving only whatever contaminants were mixed in with the salt, again, causing the salt to lose its flavor.

Dead-Sea-Israel

In Jesus’ area, salt would have been obtained from salt marshes nearby, or from the Dead Sea, and these would have been full of the contaminants I’m talking about.  For in those days, we didn’t have the factories or the ability to extract other unwanted chemicals from the salt.  Therefore, it wasn’t uncommon for someone’s salt to be flavorless or to taste “off.”

Indeed, it was fairly common, and when that happened, people would throw the useless salt out into the road, where it would be trampled into the ground.  It’s important to note that the unwanted salt was not thrown into the field or someone’s yard, otherwise, it could kill someone’s crops.  Therefore, it was safer, to throw it onto the roadways, where nothing was planted, and where it would be crushed by people and animals into the ground.

Now, armed with this knowledge, what could Jesus have meant, when He said, “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.”  (Matthew 5:13 NLT)

In what ways could a man or woman of God, the salt of the earth, lose his/her flavor?  One way that we could lose our flavor and become like useless salt, is if the Word within us is watered down or diluted.  For instance, there are many preachers, teachers, evangelists and prophets, who preach a watered down version of God’s word.

They refuse to speak of sin and the need for repentance, because they don’t want to offend anyone.  Some don’t believe the devil and his demons really exist.  Some believe in psychology and psychiatry, yet turn a blind eye to demonic possession and oppression.  Their gospel is so watered down that it is entirely flavorless.  Is it really any wonder that so many want nothing to do with the church?  After all, how is this any different than living in the world?  These people have lost their saltiness, and as Jesus said, they should be cast out.  Yet, instead, many of us embrace them!

Then, there are those who, like the salt that we discussed earlier, are filled with many impurities.  They sow seeds of discord among believers.  We all know some of them.  The Apostle Paul described these people in 2 Timothy 3:

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

These flavorless preachers, teachers and prophets include many teachings that are the antithesis of scripture.  You’ve seen it.  There are so-called clergy, who believe and teach that homosexuality is of God.  They not only condone it, they even practice it and encourage others to do so!

Beloved reader, how many televangelists have you seen, who couldn’t care less about your souls? All they want is more money and power.  You’ve seen the preachers, the deacons, the elders in the church, who have no love for Jesus.  They are in these positions for the power and prestige it brings them.  You’ve seen the Sunday School teachers and youth leaders, who, though some may love youth and children, care more about making sure youth and children have fun, rather than being concerned about their relationship with Christ, not to mention those who are there as predators, and seek their own pleasure by destroying our children and youth.  You’ve also seen people in the church, who are content where they are, as long as they aren’t forced to confront their own sin.

Whether these people are flavorless because of impurities or watered down versions of the gospel, if they don’t repent and change, they will be cast out and trampled, just as Jesus said.  Beloved reader, if any of this describes you, I urge you to repent before it is too late!  Jesus makes it very clear that we are to be the salt of the earth.  We are to bring a good and rich flavor to this decaying world.

Have you ever eaten a cake that has no salt?  It is one of the most disgusting things you’ve ever tasted, because even sweet things need the savory flavor of salt.  Otherwise, it just tastes like something rotten.  If we only believe, teach and preach the scriptures that say God is love, but refuse to believe, teach and preach those scriptures that show He is also a just God, who will avenge injustice, it is like eating a sickening sweet cake that has no salt.  It is disgusting.

How can we expect our children to do what is good and right, if we don’t teach them the pure, incorrupt truth?  How can we expect anyone to do what is right and good, if we don’t show them?  As a wise person once said, we, Christians, are the only bible most of the world will ever see.  If we have lost our flavor, they will simply taste and see what it is in everyone who is without Christ… unbelief… hatred… bitterness… envy… strife… adultery…  Don’t you want others to come and do as David did in Psalm 34:8?

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

Beloved reader, have you lost your flavor?  If so, I urge you to repent.  Seek the Lord, while He may be found.  He is not only a just God, but also a merciful One.

Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
(Isaiah 1:18 NKJV)

Cast away any flavorless, worldly teachings you have been exposed to.  Seek the Truth of God’s Word, so that you may be able to walk in His power and strength.  I urge you brothers and sisters in Christ, do not become like flavorless salt, lest you be cast away and trampled.

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

What in the World is a Peacemaker?

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9 NASB)

What in the world is a peacemaker? Jesus said that the peacemakers shall be called sons of God, and as the only begotten Son of God, and the Prince of Peace, He must have been a peacemaker, right? For the commands He gave to us, and the lessons He taught, He demonstrated in His own life. Let us therefore examine Jesus’ life and discover how we, too, can become sons of God.

Jesus was and is the Prince of Peace. Throughout the scriptures, we see that He repeatedly spoke of peace, and yet He had many enemies, who wanted nothing more than to destroy Him, from the time of His birth. So the peace He was speaking of, obviously had nothing to do with whether or not we have enemies.

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27 NASB)

Indeed, Jesus warned us in Matthew 10:34-42, that He didn’t come to bring peace on earth, but a sword. He said that He came to set families against one another. That doesn’t sound very peaceful, does it?

I remember when I was first saved as a child of around eleven or twelve years old. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my parents the good news. I was sure they would be proud and happy for me. As soon as I jumped off the church bus, I hit the ground at a run, delighted to share the wonderful news of my salvation with my mommy and daddy.

Yet, their response to this good news wasn’t what I expected. Instead of rejoicing, they were angry at me and at the church bus captains that they sent me to church with every week. I was told that if I was going to turn into a holy roller, like my church bus leaders, I wouldn’t be allowed to go to church with them anymore, did I understand? I didn’t understand, but I promised to obey them. I couldn’t bear the thought of not being allowed to go to church anymore. So, I began to read my bible in secret, and I didn’t talk to them about my relationship with Jesus for many years.

I didn’t understand their reaction back then. I was heartbroken, and sure I had done something wrong. Maybe they reacted like that because I didn’t know enough to share the good news about Jesus. There was one thing I was certain of though. I knew that Jesus was and is the Son of God, and though it would have made my parents cringe, I knew that I wanted to be like my church bus captains, who loved the Lord and served Him so joyfully. They truly lived according to His ways, and I wanted to live like that too.

Beloved reader, my relationship with Jesus did not bring me peace with my family. It drove a wedge between us. There was much conflict between me and my parents throughout the years, and they often seemed to hate my faith.

34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36     Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ (Matthew 10:34-36 NLT)

So, if Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the One who blessed the peacemakers and said that these would be called the sons of God, didn’t come to bring peace on earth, what kind of peace was He talking about? I know without doubt that Jesus walked the walk He proclaimed, so there must be an answer to this, right? Why did He come?

1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for usBecause of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:1-11 NLT)

Beloved reader, rejoice with me, for the answer to our question is found in this scripture passage. Jesus didn’t come to bring peace on earth. He came to bring us peace with God! Do you want to be a son of God? Then work to bring others to peace with God. It is both as difficult and simple as that.

Don’t get it twisted. Even though you may be attacked at every side, and even though you are surrounded by enemies, our goal is not to be at peace with the world. Our goal is to love our enemies, even though it goes against everything we’ve been taught by the world, and seek to help them make peace with God. Keep your mind fixed on God, and don’t allow the troubles of this world to cause you to lose focus…

You will keep in perfect peace
   all who trust in You,
   all whose thoughts are fixed on You! (Isaiah 26:3 NLT)

Do you want to be called a son of God? Then beloved, stop seeking your peace in this world. True peace comes from knowing and loving God. True peacemakers share the peace that God has given them, with others. True peacemakers don’t lose focus of this goal…

Do you long for peace? Seek the Lord with all your heart. Trust in Him, and no matter what circumstances you find yourself in, don’t lose focus of the One who loves you with an everlasting love. While you may never have peace even in your own household, true peace comes from your relationship with God.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9 NLT)

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

Please, Help Me to See God!

Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.  (Matthew 5:8 NKJV)

Does this seem like an impossibility to you?  Do you feel as though you’ve seen too much, done too much and had too much done to you to ever have a pure heart?  God knows that I have felt this way for most of my life.  Though you don’t know my heart, and though I can’t know yours, God knows.  Indeed, it was God who described the condition of everyone’s heart.

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
10 I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.  (Jeremiah 17:9-10 NKJV)

So, knowing this, how could Jesus, bless those with a pure heart?  Do they really exist?  And, knowing this, how could He make it seem possible for anyone to achieve this?  I’ve been dreaming about this message all night, as the Lord placed scripture after scripture into my heart, and if you’ve longed to see God, but despaired of it ever happening, because of the things you’ve done in life, have I got good news for you!  For, as Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  

Let’s look at King David.  King David had it all.  He loved the Lord, and God had blessed him with the kingdom of Israel, and the love of his people.  He walked uprightly before God, and was seen on many occasions singing and dancing before the Lord.  And yet, like you and me, King David’s heart was just as deceitful as our hearts are.  Do you remember what happened? 

During the time of year, when kings went to war, we discover that King David stayed behind, in Jerusalem.  For whatever reason, David chose not to be where he should have been, and after waking from a nap, he walked out onto the roof and looked around.  And while he was standing there, he saw a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. 

Now, instead of averting his eyes from her and leaving his perch on the roof, David he sent a servant to find out who she was.  After discovering that she was married, you would have thought that this man of God would have forgotten about her, but instead, he summoned her to his presence and committed adultery with her.  Before too long, Bathsheba (the woman) informed David that she was pregnant. 

It never occurred to David that he should repent, and ask for her husband’s (Uriah) or God’s forgiveness.  Instead, he began to plot, to cover his sin.  Have you ever been there?  When you’ve sinned against God and man, have you tried to cover it up?  Though it shames me, I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never tried to hide my sins. 

David sent a message for Uriah to come home, hoping that he and his wife would have sex, and then Bathsheba could claim that their child was Uriah’s.  However, it turns out that Uriah was a much more honorable man than David was, and he refused to enjoy the comfort and pleasure of sleeping with his wife, while his fellow soldiers were suffering in the midst of the war.  David didn’t give up, though.  He invited Uriah to dinner that evening, and got him drunk, hoping to get him to sleep with his wife, while under the influence, but even then, Uriah refused to betray his duty to his fellow soldiers.   

So, rather than repenting and confessing his sin to Uriah and to God, David plotted another plan… one that involved Uriah’s murder.  David sent Uriah back to the front lines, where the battle was the fiercest, and ordered the other men to be pulled back, so that Uriah would be killed in battle. 

When Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, learned that Uriah had been killed in battle, she mourned for him.  Then, once her period of mourning was over, David married her, and she became one of his wives.  Before long, she gave birth to a son.  But the Lord was displeased with what David had done.  (1 Samuel 11 NLT)

Indeed, God was so unhappy about what David had done, that he sent Nathan, the prophet, to confront him with his sin.  When he realized that Nathan speaking of his sin, David confessed and repented of it, and God forgave him.  However, the consequences for David’s sin were great.  (1 Samuel 12 NLT)  Still, knowing the consequences of his sin, David prostrated himself before God, confessed his sin and repented.

1 Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.

14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.

18 Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.  (Psalm 51 NKJV)

Beloved, oftentimes, we think that because our sins are forgiven, we shouldn’t suffer the consequences for those sins, but this isn’t true.  Though Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, in this world, we still suffer sin’s consequences.  Yet, if we truly repent, as David did, though we pay the consequences of our sin, we can still be washed clean, even as David was.  Do you wonder if David will ever get to see God, because of his sin?  I believe he will, for even in the New Testament, David is referred to as a man after God’s own heart.  

And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’  (Acts 13:22 NKJV) 

Even after these terrible sins against God and man, David remained a man after God’s own heart.  Doesn’t that give you hope?  It gives me great hope.  Yet, if what Jesus said is true, then how can our heart be made pure, so that we, too, can see God?  We must do as David did, and repent and confess our sin to God…

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John 1:9 NKJV) 

Do you want to see God?  Then you must have a pure heart.  How can you have a pure heart?  Confess your sins to God, repent from them, and ask Him to cleanse your heart, just as David did, and your heart, beloved reader, will be made pure, and you will see God.

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

When Miracles Are Not Enough!

A friend of mine, Greg LaFazia, wrote a post this morning that made me think…  (See “Do YOU Realize?“)  What do I really want from God?  Do I want His miracles, signs and wonders? (Yes!)  Or do I want something more?  (Absolutely!)

He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.
(Psalm 103:7  NKJV)

The children of Israel followed Moses as he led them out of bondage in Egypt.  During that time, they saw many miracles from God…  They saw the ten plagues God sent to Egypt (Exodus 7-12)…  They saw the pillar of cloud by day, and the fire by night, which God placed between them and Pharaoh and his soldiers, who pursued them to kill and capture them.  They saw the parting of the Red Sea, and they watched as it closed on their Egyptian tormentors, and killed them (Exodus 14)…  They ate manna from heaven, and when they complained (yes, they grew tired of eating of this heavenly bread), God sent them quail (Exodus 16)…  When they were thirsty, God told Moses to strike a rock, and water gushed forth from it (Exodus 17)…  God did all of these things, and so much more, but it seemed as though His miracles were never enough.  The people were never satisfied.  They only wanted more miracles.

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The people didn’t seem to care about the One who performed all of these mighty acts on their behalf.  They felt entitled to the miracles.  They had no desire to know their Benefactor.  Yet, God loved these people and He wanted a relationship with them…

Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now if you will obey Me and keep My covenant, you will be My own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to Me. And you will be My kingdom of priests, My holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”  (Exodus 19:3-6 NLT)

He set boundaries around His holy mountain, forbidding the people from even touching it, but He wanted to speak to the children of Israel.  He loved them, as He loves us.  Yet, the people didn’t want to hear Him…

18 When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear.

19 And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!”

20 “Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of Him will keep you from sinning!”  (Exodus 20:18-20 NLT)

Did their fear of Him keep them from sinning?  You be the judge.  When Moses went up on the mountain to receive God’s commands, did the people pray and seek God’s face?  No.  They talked among themselves, and when they thought Moses was away too long with God, they approached his brother, Aaron, and convinced him to make a new god to lead them (Exodus 32)…  After all of the miracles, signs and wonders they had witnessed, clearly, the miracles just weren’t enough for the people.  And then there was Moses…

From the time he first saw the Lord in the midst of the burning bush, he was drawn to Him.  Yes, it was awesome seeing the burning bush, but Moses had discovered the One who was truly awesome.  Like the people of Israel, Moses feared the Lord, but his fear was different than their fear.  For, in their fear, the people of Israel didn’t want to come near the Lord, nor even hear His voice, which led them to sin against God, and worship another, less fearsome god.  Yet in his fear, Moses depended on God (Exodus 3-4)

Read the book of Exodus, and you will see how totally Moses depended on the Lord for everything.  You will see how he constantly sought God and listened and obeyed Him.  Was Moses perfect?  Of course not, but he was a man who loved God so much that he came to know His ways.

When you love someone, you learn about them.  You learn their likes and their dislikes.  You learn what things bring joy to the person you love, and what things hurt the person you love.  When your loved one gives you a glance, without saying a word, you know what they’re thinking, because you’re intimate with this person.  You care about this person, and because you care, you want to please him/her.  This is the relationship Moses had with God.  Look at this intimate exchange between Moses and God…

12 One day Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But You haven’t told me whom You will send with me. You have told me, ‘I know you by name, and I look favorably on you.’ 13 If it is true that You look favorably on me, let me know Your ways so I may understand You more fully and continue to enjoy Your favor. And remember that this nation is Your very own people.”

14 The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.”

15 Then Moses said, “If You don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. 16 How will anyone know that You look favorably on me—on me and on Your people—if You don’t go with us? For Your presence among us sets Your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”

17 The Lord replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.”

18 Moses responded, “Then show me Your glorious presence.”

19 The Lord replied, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will call out My name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. 20 But you may not look directly at My face, for no one may see Me and live.”21 The Lord continued, “Look, stand near Me on this rock. 22 As My glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove My hand and let you see Me from behind. But My face will not be seen.”  (Exodus 33:12-23 NLT)

Beloved, are God’s miracles enough for you?  Or do you want to know Him?  As I read my friend, Greg’s post this morning, I realized how far short of His glory I fall.  I realized that for too long, I sought God’s mighty works, without seeking Him.  But, I declare this day that His miracles are not enough for me!  Like Moses, I want to know His ways, just as I know my husband’s ways.  I want to know Him even as He knows me.  And like Moses, I cry out, “I pray Thee, Lord, show me your glory!”

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

America’s Immigration Problem from a Biblical Perspective

In late autumn, in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was at the fortress of Susa. Hanani, one of my brothers, came to visit me with some other men who had just arrived from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem.

They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”

Nehemiah 1:1-3  NLT

Wailing Wall of Jerusalem

In my last post, I promised to address the United States’ Illegal Immigration problem from a biblical perspective, and one of the first things that I want to note is that Jerusalem, God’s holy city is and has been surrounded by a great wall, for many centuries.  In fact, when the Jewish refugees returned to their ancient home, after being captives of first Babylon, then Persia for seventy years, they returned to find their city in tatters.  Walls were torn down and burned.  Why was this wall so important to Jerusalem, and can we draw any parallels between their wall and the United States’ determination to build a wall today?

When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.

Nehemiah 1:4  NLT

As you well know, there has been a lot of outcry in the U.S. regarding the building of a wall along our borders.  On the one hand, we have people crying, “Build that wall!” while on the other hand, we have people equally outraged crying out against it.  As I was preparing to write this post about illegal immigration from a bibilcal perspective, the Lord placed Nehemiah on my heart.  Therefore, as I share his story with you, we will compare Jerusalem’s need for their wall to be restored, and our own nation’s cry for a wall.

Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.”

Then I was terrified, but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”

The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”

With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”

The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” After I told him how long I would be gone, the king agreed to my request.

Nehemiah 2:1-6  NLT

After much mourning, praying and fasting about the sad state of his homeland and its broken wall, the king of Persia, whom Nehemiah served as a cup-bearer, inquired about his obvious heartache.  Nehemiah then told the king about his concern for Jerusalem, and his brothers and sisters, and the king immediately asked, “Well, how can I help you?”  Obviously Nehemiah had favor with both God and King Artaxerxes.  

The walls of Jerusalem were originally built to protect its inhabitants, including the Judean king, and the holy Temple of God, from the attacks of their enemies.  The walls were built and rebuilt to keep Jerusalem’s enemies out…

After praying to the Lord, Nehemiah asked King Artaxerxes to send him to Jerusalem, so that he could rebuild that once great city on a hill, the land of his fathers, and the king agreed to do so, giving Nehemiah a letter to Asaph, the manager of his forest, instructing him to give Nehemiah the lumber he needed to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, its gates, the Temple gates, and a house for Nehemiah.  King Artaxerxes also sent letters to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, instructing them to allow Nehemiah to pass safely through their land so he could rebuild the city of Jerusalem.  The king also sent horsemen and army officers along to protect Nehemiah.  (see Nehemiah 2:7-9).

11 So I arrived in Jerusalem. Three days later, 12 I slipped out during the night, taking only a few others with me. I had not told anyone about the plans God had put in my heart for Jerusalem. We took no pack animals with us except the donkey I was riding. 13 After dark I went out through the Valley Gate, past the Jackal’s Well, and over to the Dung Gate to inspect the broken walls and burned gates. 14 Then I went to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but my donkey couldn’t get through the rubble. 15 So, though it was still dark, I went up the Kidron Valley instead, inspecting the wall before I turned back and entered again at the Valley Gate.

16 The city officials did not know I had been out there or what I was doing, for I had not yet said anything to anyone about my plans. I had not yet spoken to the Jewish leaders—the priests, the nobles, the officials, or anyone else in the administration. 17 But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” 18 Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king.

They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.

Nehemiah 2:11-18  NLT

walls
Rebuilding Jerusalem’s Walls

As I read the response of Jerusalem’s city officials, priests, nobles and members of the administration, I immediately drew a parallel to the response of many of our nation’s citizens cry for Donald Trump to, “Build that wall!”  Like those Jewish refugees from so long ago, our nation’s citizens are weary of the terrorism and hatred that is taking place within and without our nation’s borders.

Please bear with me as I attempt to speak for those United States’ citizens who love our great nation, and who, contrary to the accusations of many more liberal people within the nation, are neither bigoted, racist, hate-filled xenophobes, homophobes, or any of the other epithets aimed at them.  The men and women of this nation, who are crying out for our immigration laws to be obeyed, are simply men and women who care about this nation’s citizens and its children.  Those who want that wall built, do not want it built to keep good, law-abiding immigrants out, but to keep those out, who have no respect for the law.  We have not cried out for new immigration laws, but for those laws that have already been written, to be enforced.  There are some who accuse the people who believe this way of being inhumane.  Some even accuse Christians of not being “good Christians” because they hold these beliefs.  I disagree.

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

Romans 13:1-5  NLT

According to scripture,  a “good Christian” obeys the law of the land, providing that law does not cause us to disobey God.  Enforcing our nation’s immigration laws does not cause people to disobey God.  Furthermore, I would submit that many, who are promoting sanctuary cities, and encouraging people to disobey federal immigration laws, are not being humane, but anarchists.  Indeed, when we look at the actions of those who accused President Trump of being a demagogue, who stirred up violence in his campaign, we soon discover that it is many of these people, who are in fact, demagogues.  They have attempted to preempt free speech, by leading violent riots against anyone who does not support their views, on many college campuses across the country.  It is many of these people, rather than the ones supporting adherence to the nation’s immigration laws, who are engaging in anarchy.

anarchy

 [an-er-kee]
noun
1.  a state of society without government or law.
2.  political and social disorder due to the absence of governmental control:

The death of the king was followed by a year of anarchy.
3.  anarchism (def 1).
4.  lack of obedience to an authority; insubordination:

the anarchy of his rebellious teenage years.
5.  confusion and disorder:
               Intellectual and moral anarchy followed his loss of faith.

It was impossible to find the book I was looking for in the anarchy of his bookshelves.

Legal immigrants and refugees have been, and always will be welcome to settle into our country.  However, those enter into our country illegally, already demonstrate a lack of respect for the laws of our land.  It is utterly wrong to reward those who illegally enter this country, demonstrating their contempt for our laws, while other immigrants, who choose to come to this country legally, must wait for years sometimes.  Further, how is it logical or reasonable to expect the taxpayers of this nation to support illegal immigrants with free healthcare, no taxes, food benefits, and other aid, while many legal citizens are often unable to obtain the help they need???

Is it reasonable to welcome people that we know nothing about, people who may be terrorists and criminals, into this nation?  Absolutely not!  Those who claim that welcoming everyone into our land is humane are wrong.  It is not humane to our own citizens, who may become prey to terrorists and criminals, simply because some people wanted to feel good about themselves by letting anyone and everyone enter our country.

Laws are put into place for the good of the citizens of that land.  Immigration laws protect a nation’s citizens.  Look at how quickly  and horribly radical Islamic terrorism has invaded Europe, since those countries within the European Union have no borders.

A border wall between the United States and Mexico, another nation, is not the same as the Berlin wall, which separated brothers and sisters from the same country (indeed the same city!).  Just as Jerusalem’s walls were necessary and approved of by God, to protect Judea’s sovereignty, so too, is it necessary to protect the sovereignty of the U.S.A., and if that means building a wall, I feel certain the Lord would approve.


Footnotes:

© 2017
Cheryl A. Showers

God, Are You for Us, or for Our Enemies???

13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for His servant?”

Joshua 5:13-14 NIV

So many of us are feeling very self-righteous during this current election season. We have the democrats, who are so full of themselves, as they decry the republicans for not caring about the poor, the elderly, and the minorities, though their actions against the very same speak volumes. Is Hillary truly for women and minorities? Or is she simply for herself? Open your eyes, friends!
Then, there are republicans, who are outraged that a criminal, such as Hillary Clinton, is running for office. After all, let’s really look at her track record. She claims to be a woman’s advocate, yet when her husband, Bill Clinton was charged with sexually abusing women, she did what men and women throughout the ages have done. She blamed the victims. And yet, how can the republicans truly be outraged by this, when their own frontrunner, Donald Trump, has a very similar track record to Bill Clinton. This man is no respecter of women, minorities or the poor!
So, instead of uniting in prayer, what do the men and women, of this country (who claim to be believers), do? We attack one another. We attack one another for being on the wrong side. The white Christians attack their black brothers and sisters for electing such an ungodly man as Barak Obama as president, and for looking to Hillary Clinton, who is equally ungodly and amoral, to answer their prayers for the good of this country, while the black Christians attack their white brothers and sisters for turning to the ungodly Donald Trump to make America great again.
Hear me, now. We’re each accusing the other of being ungodly, because we’re on the wrong side, but the fact is, that it’s entirely possible that we’re all on the wrong side. Neither Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, nor Donald Trump can make America great. Neither of them can deliver us from the evil that we see growing ever stronger all around us. Not one of them can set us on the right track. Furthermore, if you ask God whose side He is on, you are very likely to receive the same answer that Joshua received, when he met the commander of the Lord’s army…
Fotolia_3422603_M-1024x680

13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for His servant?”

Joshua 5:13-14 NIV

So what can we do, to heal our land? Instead of taking sides, and expecting God to join ours, perhaps we should simply move to His side, and obey Him…

8 No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 NLT

I can’t make you or anyone else do what is right. I don’t have the power to change your hearts. I don’t even have the power to change my own wicked heart. Therefore, if there is to be any hope for me, for you or for our country, I must humble myself under the mighty right hand of God, and repent of my own sins. I must stop believing the foolish retoric taught by the modern church, misleading the people of God into thinking Christians should never suffer. Beloved readers, understand this – suffering is part of our calling

6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor. 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. 8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. 10 In His kindness God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation. 11 All power to Him forever! Amen.

1 Peter 5:9-11 NLT

This, dear brothers and sisters, is the ONLY hope for our country. Do you want the best for our nation??? Then let’s humble ourselves. Do you want to protect our nation’s children??? The pray and seek God’s face. Cast all your cares on Christ, because He cares for you. Stop looking at our brothers and sisters as enemies, because they don’t think like we do! The fact is, that NONE of us thinks like God, but He doesn’t see us as His enemies…

8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT

Let us unite together, pray together, humble ourselves under God’s righteous right hand, and stand firm, and resist the devil, our true enemy, who is prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking to destroy someone. Then, and only then, will he flee.
© 2016
Cheryl A. Showers

Obedience – How Important is it Really???

Many believers are under the misconception that because we are saved by grace, obedience is no longer necessary.  In fact, there are some who consider grace to be a license to sin.  So, in response to these prevailing attitudes, I have a question…  How important is obedience, really?

love-is-obedience

22 But Samuel replied,

“What is more pleasing to the Lord:
    your burnt offerings and sacrifices
    or your obedience to His voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
    and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
23 Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
    and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, He has rejected you as king.”

1 Samuel 15:22-23 NLT

Yes, this is an Old Testament reference, but let’s not forget this fact; the New Testament God we serve, is the same God who was in the Old Testament, and He hasn’t changed…

I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed. Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned My decrees and failed to obey them. Now return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Malachi 3:6-7 NLT

22 It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. 23 He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The people surrounded Him and asked, “How long are You going to keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe Me. The proof is the work I do in My Father’s name. 26 But you don’t believe Me because you are not My sheep. 27 My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from Me, 29 for my Father has given them to Me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are One.

John 10:22-30 NLT

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hebrews 13:8 NLT

17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

James 1:17 NLT

You see, beloved friends, whether we lived in Old Testament times, New Testament times, or in the hereafter, God remains the same.  Therefore, since God found obedience pleasing in Old Testament times, and since He hasn’t changed, then we can infer that God still finds obedience pleasing and that He always will.  Furthermore, when we rebel against God by disobeying Him, then we have committed a sin as bad as the sin of witchcraft.  And though we are saved by grace, through faith, (Praise God!), God still commands and desires our obedience.

john-14-15-free-bible-verse-desktop-wallpapers

Moreover, because Jesus and God the Father are One, then His commands are God’s commands, just as God’s commands are His.  So, when we read Jesus’ words, we can also deduce that His words are God’s words, and it is the Lord who tells us:

15 If you love Me, obey My commandments.

John 14:15 NLT

Do you love Him?  Then, you MUST obey His commandments.  We don’t obey His commandments in order to be saved, because we know that we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus…

God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT

Therefore, we respond to God with love, as a result of His wonderful gift of salvation to us, and if we love Him, then we will obey His commandments.  What’s more, obedience is so important to Jesus, that He spoke to His disciples about it the night before He died…

15 If you love Me, obey My commandments.

John 14:15 NLT

I’ll ask you again.  Do you love Jesus???  Let’s see what He says about love and obedience…

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love. 10 When you obey My commandments, you remain in My love, just as I obey My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are My friends, since I have told you everything the Father told Me. 16 You didn’t choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using My name. 17 This is My command: Love each other.

John 15:9-17 NLT

john-1423_5561_1024x768

The scriptures are very clear.  Obedience is absolutely necessary, if we love God.  It’s not an option; it’s a requirement, not for salvation, but for remaining in God’s love.  Think about it.  If Jesus’ whole life was lived in obedience to God, then how can we even begin to think that we are exempt from obedience?  Again, make no mistake, we must obey God, if we call ourselves His children…

46 So why do you keep calling Me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to Me, listens to My teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.

Luke 6:46-49 NLT

21 “Not everyone who calls out to Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to Me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in Your name and cast out demons in Your name and performed many miracles in Your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you who break God’s laws.

Matthew 7:21-23 NLT

Beloved friends, it doesn’t matter how eloquent a preacher is, if he doesn’t live in obedience to God, it means nothing.  It doesn’t matter how much you talk about the love of God, if you don’t obey Him, you simply don’t love Him, and if you don’t love Him and obey Him, then how can you remain in His love?  Do I sound harsh?  These aren’t my words, or my interpretation of the scriptures.  This is what Jesus said…

15 If you love Me, obey My commandments.

John 14:15 NLT

21 Those who accept My commandments and obey them are the ones who love Me. And because they love Me, My Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal Myself to each of them.

John 14:21 NLT

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love. 10 When you obey My commandments, you remain in My love, just as I obey My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.

John 15:9-10 NLT

Beloved, here is the truth.  If you have been saved by God’s grace, you can’t help but respond to Him in love, and the out-flowing of that love is the desire to please the One who loved us, while we were still lost in sin.  When you truly love Christ, it isn’t a sacrifice to give up on our old ways.  What becomes of utmost importance to us, is the yearning to live a life that brings glory and honor to Him, and disobedience no longer has any place in our lives.

Does this mean that we will never mess up again?  Of course not!  As long as we walk in this body of flesh, there will be times when we sin and fall short of God’s glory.  The difference between one who lives a life of obedience for Christ, and fails from time to time, and one who refuses to live a life of obedience, is that the one will fall, repent, and cry out to God for mercy and help, while the other will justify his/her sin.

As you can see, beloved reader, obedience is not an option.  It is vital to the life all who truly love Christ.  So, let’s examine our own hearts and ask ourselves, “Do I really love Jesus?  Does my love show in my obedience to His word?”  Please join me in praying this prayer that David prayed…

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;

    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Psalm 139:23-24 NLT

© 2016
Cheryl A. Showers

White as Snow…

whiteassnow

“Come now, let’s settle this,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
    I will make them as white as wool.
(Isaiah 1:18  NLT)

As I look at the white snow outside, I’m struck by its beauty.  It is in gazing at the pristine whiteness of the snow, that my thoughts turn to the purity of God.  For He is purer than the whitest snow.  He is holy.  He is righteous.  What’s more, He hates all impurities. even the most minute impurity.

How is it then, that such a clean, holy and righteous God would love someone like me?

But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

(Romans 5:8  NLT)

Isn’t that mindblowing?  Think about all of the sins that you’ve commited in your life; every sinful act, every sinful word, every sinful thought.  Think about every rebellious act that you’ve ever committed; every time you knowingly chose to do the wrong thing, every time you chose not to do the right thing.  Think about every time you hated someone… according to scripture, that is the same as murder in God’s eyes.  Think about every time you used God’s name in vain; not just the times you used His name as a curse, but also the times you spoke erroneously in His name.  What about all of the lies you’ve spoken, the gossip you  spread, the condemnation you brought on others?  Did you long for those things that weren’t yours?  Were you envious of others?  Did you ever lust after anyone?  It was while we were in the midst of this filth, that God looked on us with love.

It was when we were bitter that He loved us.  Think about the times you doubted God, were angry at Him and rebelled against Him, choosing instead, to go your own way.  It was even then, that He loved us.  How amazing is that?

As I think about how He loved us in the midst of my sins, I am reminded of the song that we sang on the day that I was saved.  It is an old hymn, “Just as I Am”, that has been sung many times, as people made the choice to serve God, and it blessed me then, as a 11 or 12-year-old girl in the 70’s, and now, as a 54-year-old grandmother.

For those of you, who have never known of the love of Christ, I pray that you know and experience His great love for you today.  God loves you, no matter how great your sin, and He loves you way to much to leave you that way.  You don’t have to try to straighten up for Him to accept you.  Come to Him just as you are, and let Him clean you up.  Listen to these words of promise from the Lord, Himself…

United in the Word
United in the Word

18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.”

(Isaiah 1:18  NKJV)

As you listen to the words of the song below, I urge you to call upon the name of the Lord, and ask Him to set you free from the sin that binds you.  If you find it difficult to believe that God loves you, and He can set you free, ask Him to reveal the truth to you.  If you seek Him, you will find Him…

For those, who already know and love Him, as you listen to the words of the song below, rejoice and give Him thanks, for the great love that He has lavished on you, in Jesus’ name.

© 2016
Cheryl A. Showers

Working Toward Something Good and Beautiful

Image Credit: Health Care Diary
Image Credit:
Health Care Diary

It’s been more than three weeks since I’ve written or posted anything. During that time, my pain medication has been elevated, due to a continued increase in the pain I suffer. The increased pain medication has made it nearly impossible for me to write, as I have been unable to stay awake long enough to read, write or think with any clarity. Then, when the pain meds wear off, the intense pain also renders me unable to write, as I struggle unsuccessfully, to get my mind off the pain and focus on something else.

Then, in the midst of this, my FaceBook account was hacked by someone pretending to be me. This imposter created a clone of my account, and began contacting some of my friends, trying to obtain personal financial information from them. Needless to say, I reported this to FaceBook, and I’ve closed my account for the time being…

Image Credit: Landon Gilfillan
Image Credit:
Landon Gilfillan

Meanwhile, for the last nine days, my husband and I have been visiting our daughter and son-in-law, and three of our nine grandchildren. This precious time with my family has given me great joy, despite the pain I’m in, and last night, before bed, my granddaughters asked me to share a bible story with them. This completely blessed me, for there is nothing I’d rather do than share God’s word with people, and especially with my beloved grandchildren…

Therefore, I shared Daniel 1 with them last night, and I will continue sharing the story of Daniel and his friends each night for the rest of our visit… So, after beginning to tell Daniel’s story to my grandchildren and preparing to share the next chapter with them tonight, I felt a stirring within me to write. This urge to write has been missing for the last few weeks, but now, I found myself wanting to share Daniel’s story with you…

Image Credit: Point of Power
Image Credit:
Point of Power

As you may already know, when King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army invaded Judea, the Lord allowed Nebuchadnezzar to make Judea’s King Jehoiakim his prisoner and take him back to Babylon. The Lord also allowed his army to rob His holy Temple, carrying some of its sacred vessels back to fill the treasury of Babylon’s false gods. Among those captured in the invasion, were members of Judah’s royal family, and several members of nobility. It was from these members of royalty and nobility, that Nebuchadnezzar chose the brightest young men who were also the most handsome, to be trained to serve in his royal court.

Among those chosen to be trained to serve in Nebuchadnezzar’s court were four young men named, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Then, possibly in an attempt to make them forget their roots, one of the first things Nebuchadnezzar did, was to change the names of his captives. Thus, Daniel became Belteshazzar, Hananiah’s name was changed to Shadrach, Mishael’s name became Meshach and Azariah became Abed-nego.

Image Credit: Minister to the Heart
Image Credit:
Minister to the Heart

To further enhance the change in the lives of Nebuchadnezzar’s captives, they were sent to live in his palace, where they would be trained in the Babylonian ways for three years. Daniel and his friends meekly went along with all of these changes, until they were presented with food from the king’s table. While these rations were very generous and were gratefully received by other prisoners, to be forced to partake of this food, would defile Daniel and his friends before the Lord, and they would rather die than be seen as unclean by their God. 

Therefore, carefully choosing his words, Daniel spoke for himself and his friends to the king’s chief eunuch, asking that he and his friends be served nothing but vegetables, grains and water. Ashpenaz, the chief eunuch, refused, but Daniel was persistent, and quietly spoke to the guard that the chief eunuch assigned to him and his compatriots…

12 “Please, do us a favor. Put us, your servants, to the test for the next 10 days. Give us a vegetarian diet and water. 13 When the time is up, you can see for yourself our condition and compare it to the condition of the other young men who are eating from the king’s table. Then, after you have seen what has happened, do whatever you think is best with us, your servants.”

14 So the guard agreed to do as Daniel requested. He tested them on a diet of only vegetables, grains, and water for 10 days. 15 When the 10 days were up, he looked them over and noticed that Daniel and his friends were better off than all the young men eating from the king’s best foods. They looked healthy and well nourished, 16 so the guard continued to hold back their royal rations and replaced them with a strictly vegetarian diet. 17 Through all of this, God conferred upon these 4 young men superior abilities in literature, language, and wisdom. God had given Daniel an additional gift, too: the ability to interpret visions and dreams. 18 When the 3-year period of training and conditioning, as set by the king, was over, the king sent for the candidates; the chief of the royal eunuchs himself escorted them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king interviewed all of them and found that none of the candidates were any better than Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; so they were each assigned an important place in the king’s court.  ~ Daniel 1:12-19  VOICE ~

As I think about this story, and I ponder my own situation, which seems so hopeless and untenable, I’m struck by the presence of God in Daniel’s life. Think about it. Daniel was a God-fearing Jewish boy, whose desire was to serve God faithfully in Judea, in the midst of God’s chosen people. Yet, instead of having his dream fulfilled, Daniel and his friends were cruelly snatched from the arms of their loved ones and deposited into the midst of heathens. Also, rather than serving the country they loved, in Jerusalem, home of God’s holy Temple, they were now forced to serve a pagan king, who served pagan gods. Nothing had gone the way it should have, and Daniel’s dreams of ministering had been snatched away from him… Or had they?

As I think about my own situation, it all seems so hopeless. I’m in so much constant pain, that I’m unable to stand and minister like I once did. My dreams of ministering for the Lord seem to be beyond my grasp right now. I’m no longer able to preach and minister in the prisons like I once did, and my dance ministry has also fallen to the wayside, for how can you dance, when merely standing, sitting, walking or laying cause excruciating pain?

Still, as I read about Daniel, I’m struck by the knowledge that God not only knew about Daniel’s situation, it seems that He orchestrated it, for His glory…

The Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar the victory and allowed him to take King Jehoiakim of Judah as his prisoner. At the same time, He permitted the Babylonian king to rob God’s temple of some of its sacred vessels and carry them away to Babylonia (called Shinar), which was the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, to fill the treasury of his own gods, Marduk and Nebo.

After the king returned home, he commanded Ashpenaz, chief of the royal eunuchs, to bring some of the Israelites who had been taken captive to the palace. These included members of Judah’s royal family and the nobility.  ~ Daniel 1:2-3 VOICE ~

Now, if God orchestrated the events in Daniel’s life, and in the lives of His chosen people, doesn’t it seem plausible that He would also orchestrate the events in my life and yours? To be kidnapped and taken to a country far away, seems like a horrific experience, and yet, when you realize that God was behind it, this dreadful event is miraculously changed into a reason for hope and even joy. 

Likewise, a life of constant chronic pain was not a part of the life I dreamed of having. I dreamed of preaching throughout the country, in prisons and churches and wherever else God sent me, but I now see that what I had once thought was God’s will for my life, was really only my own hopes and dreams for my life. They were my plans, not His. Furthermore, knowing that this chronic pain is not some tragic misfortune caused by the devil, unbeknownst to God, but rather, it is all a part of His plan for my life, makes my current circumstances worth rejoicing over…

28 We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.  ~ Romans 8:28 VOICE ~

Now, as I look at Daniel, who was snatched from his home, never to return again, I can see that God orchestrated everything in his life, changing it into something beautiful and good. So, if God orchestrated Daniel’s painful events into something good and beautiful, don’t you think it’s possible (even likely) that since I love Him, He has been orchestrating everything in my life to work toward something good and beautiful?

What about you, beloved reader? Have your circumstances been difficult? Be of good cheer. For as long as you love Him and are called according to His purpose, God will orchestrate everything in your life to work toward something good and beautiful.

© 2014
Cheryl A. Showers

Justin Ross Harris & Israel’s Cities of Refuge

Image Credit: people.com
Image Credit:
people.com

Everyone is talking about Justin Ross Harris, who left his twenty-two month old son, Cooper, in his hot SUV for seven hours, while working his job at Home Depot. This horrible incident has been all over the news media, and a couple of days ago, I watched his probable cause hearing online. By the end of that day, Mr. Harris’ motion to be released on bond was denied, so he must remain in jail until his trial.

In the aftermath of this terrible occurrence, one thing is certain; everyone has an opinion about it. Did Ross Harris deliberately murder his only son, or was it really a dreadful accident, like he says? As I watched the court proceedings the other day, I was struck by a sad thought…

Suppose this really was an accident? Haven’t you ever gotten in your car, planning to go to one destination, and then, while you’re on your way, you suddenly realize that you’ve driven somewhere else, almost as though you were on auto-pilot? Haven’t you ever gone into a room with a specific task in mind, only to get there and realize that you’ve forgotten what you had gone in there for? 

I realize that a child was involved in this incident that turned very deadly, but the fact is that each one of us are human beings, with finite minds, and we do sometimes forget very important people and things. Several years ago, I remember promising to pick up an elderly woman for bible study at the church we attended together. On the evening of the bible study, I arrived around fifteen minutes early, because I am a very punctual person. After arriving so early, I spent the next several minutes chatting with other friends before class started. At one point, I remember looking at one of my friends, asking, “Where’s Miss Betty? She’s usually here by now.” 

My friend gave me an incredulous look, then stated, “I was going to ask you where she is. Weren’t you supposed to pick her up tonight?” I was totally embarrassed, because as soon as she said that, I remembered telling Miss Betty that I would pick her up. How embarrassing it was, as I quickly exited and went to get Miss Betty and bring her to the bible study. 

That’s why I don’t think it is totally implausible that a father or mother could go to work and forget his/her child is in the back seat, especially if the child falls asleep. Before we pass judgment on this father, let’s remember that he is every bit as human as we are, and it is truly possible that he did indeed, forget his son was in the backseat of his SUV. 

And if he truly did forget his child, can you imagine how traumatic it would be to come to the realization that your forgetfulness killed your only son? Imagine how horrific that must be for him. If he truly did forget his son, this young man (who looks like a boy to me), must find a way to live with the knowledge that his stupid error killed his beloved son. If it was indeed an accident, he will have to live with all of the ramifications caused by his memory lapse… Think of it, while his wife and family are grieving the loss of this adorable little boy, Ross Harris must be carrying a crushing load of guilt, knowing that his son would be alive if only

If only…

  • he had taken Cooper to daycare…
  • he had remembered Cooper was there, in his car seat, in the SUV, before he got out…
  • he had thought about his little boy, instead of allowing his mind to wander to sexual fantasies with six different women (none of whom were his wife), and wasting precious minutes, (which could have saved his son’s life) by sending sexual messages to these women (one of whom was an underage, sixteen year old girl)…
  • he had remembered his son before he went to lunch with his friends…
  • he had looked in the backseat of the SUV, when he dropped the light bulbs off in the front seat of his car, after lunch…

The list of “if only’s” goes on and on, but sadly, they mean nothing, for Cooper Harris is gone now.

Meanwhile, Ross Harris now finds himself in a battle for his freedom, and possibly even for his life, since Georgia is one of the states, which still enforces the death penalty. While watching Mr. Harris’ defense attorney questioning Detective Phil Stoddard (who seemed to have convicted Justin Ross Harris already, before the investigation and a trial have been completed) that I began to think about how a situation like this would have been handled in biblical times…

Image Credit: Bob Enyart Live
Image Credit:
Bob Enyart Live

During biblical times, the people of Israel had six cities that were designated to be Cities of Refuge

These cities are for the protection of Israelites, foreigners living among you, and traveling merchants. Anyone who accidentally kills someone may flee there for safety. ~ Numbers 35:15  NLT ~

Were these cities of refuge available to everyone? As you can see from Numbers 35:15these cities of refuge were available to foreigners and traveling merchants, as well as the Israelites, who found themselves in a situation much like the one Ross Harris is now involved in. Also, because the Lord is a merciful and just God, He made sure that the cities of refuge were available to all, no matter where they lived in Israel…

“If the distance to the nearest city of refuge is too far, an enraged avenger might be able to chase down and kill the person who caused the death. Then the slayer would die unfairly, since he had never shown hostility toward the person who died. That is why I am commanding you to set aside three cities of refuge. ~ Deuteronomy 19:6-7  NLT ~

Now, this place of refuge was not a place for someone to stay to escape justice. Nor was it a prison. The cities of refuge were there so that the person who accidentally killed someone could live without fear of reprisal before being tried by the community.

These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be put to death before being tried by the community. ~ Numbers 35:12  NLT ~

God did not command these cities of refuge be created to help the slayer escape justice. He called for these cities of refuge to be built in order to ensure that justice was served. Indeed, the Lord didn’t appoint only three cities of refuge, but six, so there would be enough to make them equally accessible for people to escape to.

13 Designate six cities of refuge for yourselves, 14 three on the east side of the Jordan River and three on the west in the land of Canaan. 15 These cities are for the protection of Israelites, foreigners living among you, and traveling merchants. Anyone who accidentally kills someone may flee there for safety. ~ Numbers 35:13-15  NLT ~

To be clear about this, murderers would not be allowed to find haven in any of the cities of refuge. These cities were only to protect those who accidentally killed someone, and they, like anyone else accused of a crime would face a trial by their community.

Those who were found guilty of murder were sentenced to die by the hand of their victim’s nearest relative. However, if the person accidentally kills someone, the community must protect the slayer (the one who accidentally kills someone) from the victim’s avenger (the closest relative of the victim), and escort him/her to the city of refuge, where the person must remain until the death of the high priest. (Numbers 35:24-25  NLT)

As long as the slayer remains within the city of refuge, until the high priest dies, thus ending his sentence, he will live in safety, protected from the victim’s avenger. However, if the slayer is discovered by the victim’s avenger outside of the city of refuge before the high priest dies, and the avenger kills him/her, this will not be counted as a crime by the avenger…

26 “But if the slayer ever leaves the limits of the city of refuge, 27 and the avenger finds him outside the city and kills him, it will not be considered murder. 28 The slayer should have stayed inside the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest, the slayer may return to his own property. 29 These are legal requirements for you to observe from generation to generation, wherever you may live.  ~ Numbers 35:26-29  NLT ~

Now, let’s go back and examine the scriptures in Numbers 35 again, and see how they explain the difference in an accidental killing and murder. As we study this, let’s keep in mind what we know about the death of Justin Ross Harris’ son, Cooper Harris… The following scriptures describe exactly what a murder is…

16-21 If someone picks up an instrument—iron, stone, wood,whatever—and batters somebody else so badly that the victim dies, or if he otherwise kills with intent (fatally pushes with hatred or throws an object from some hidden place that kills its target), the perpetrator is guilty of murder. His punishment is death in return, and someone shall be assigned to kill him. The one to carry out this death penalty is called the “blood avenger.” Whenever the avenger has a chance to kill the murderer, he should do so. ~ Numbers 35:16-21  VOICE ~

As you can see from the description, it is murder if someone picks up an instrument and batters someone with it so badly, that the person dies. Further, it is also murder if someone intentionally kills someone either by using a weapon, or by some other means. As we follow the case against Justin Ross Harris in the coming months, let’s keep this biblical description in mind when determining whether the man murdered his son, or whether the child’s tragic death was an accident.

22-24 Sometimes it happens, though, that a person pushes his friend or acquaintance, throws an object, or happens to drop a heavy stone on someone else without any intention of hurting (much less killing) the person, but the other person happens to die from it. The guilty person should be able to take refuge in one of the six designated cities, safe from the one who would avenge the death he caused. Then people from among the greater community shall judge whether it was indeed an accident or not. ~ Numbers 35:22-24  VOICE ~

Image Credit: couriermail.com
Image Credit:
couriermail.com

In the coming weeks and months, I imagine we’re going to hear many different things about Justin Ross Harris, as he is tried for murder in both the courtroom, and in the news. Many people have already formed an opinion regarding his guilt or innocence, without even knowing all of the facts. However, I would encourage all believers to pray especially for Justin Ross Harris, and his wife, Leanne Harris, for if this was an accident as Mr. Harris claims that it is, I can’t even begin to fathom the pain he and his wife must be experiencing. On the other hand, if it was murder, let’s pray that justice is served, and that the Lord would comfort Leanne Harris, who loved and trusted her husband with their child. Let’s also pray for their marriage, which has very likely suffered from this tragedy.

After reading the scriptures that tell how to know the difference between murder and accidental death, we understand how to determine the difference between the two. However, if we are members of God’s jury, in the case of Justin Ross Harris, how can we judge whether he is guilty of murdering his son, or if the death was accidental? Let’s turn to Numbers 35 once again to help us…

“All murderers must be put to death, but only if evidence is presented by more than one witness. No one may be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. ~ Numbers 35:30  NLT ~

As you can see, to convict a person of murder, there must be evidence presented by more than one witness. If only one witness testifies against the accused, then there is not enough evidence to convict him/her.

There is one more noteworthy thing about this chapter on the Cities of Refuge that I would like to mention. If the person accused of murder was found guilty, he/she would be sentenced to death by the victim’s avenger. However, if the death is found to be accidental, the person does not get off scot-free. He/She must remain within the city of refuge until the high priest dies.

You see, God values the life of mankind, most certainly, more than humans do. Therefore, if someone is killed by the hand of another, his/her death must be paid for by the one who killed him/her. Of course, if the person was murdered, his/her killer must be killed to pay for his/her death.

However, if a person was accidentally killed by the hand of another, that person’s death must also be atoned for by his/her killer. Therefore, though the killer does not deserve to die for the accidental death caused by him/her, he/she must still pay for the death with his/her own life. Hence, the killer must spend his life living within the confines of the city of refuge until the death of the high priest, whereupon he/she will then be free to return to his/her own land to live in freedom once again.

I think this consequence for causing the accidental death of someone is fair. By sentencing the accidental killer to live in one of the cities of refuge, several clear messages are sent to everyone involved…

    • First and foremost, the sentence acknowledges the value of the life that was lost, and though his/her death was accidental, it must still be atoned for.
    • This sentence makes it clear that the death was unintentional and accidental, therefore, the killer does not deserve to die for it.
    • Only God, (who knew when and how the victim would die), knows when the high priest will die, thus ending the killer’s sentence.

It seems that God’s plan for determining whether a death is  the result of murder or accidental is the best plan. Although most of us will never sit on the jury in Justin Ross Harris’ trial, there is still a great probability that we will all form our own opinions about whether little Cooper Harris died an accidental death, or whether he was the victim of his father’s heinous murder plot. Therefore, I encourage all of us to use God’s way of determining whether Cooper’s death was an accident or murder. What a shame we don’t have cities of refuge here in the United States!

Meanwhile, please join me in praying for Cooper Harris’ family…

© 2014
Cheryl A. Showers

Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 5

Image Credit: Jeff Hughes
Image Credit:
Jeff Hughes

In Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 3 and Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 4we studied each of the Ten Commandments, and its meanings. We also examined our own hearts to see which of the laws we have been guilty of breaking, as I confessed to you that I have been guilty of breaking all of God’s Laws. Of course, I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but even if you have only ever broken one command of the Law of Moses, you’re just as guilty as I am, according to Scripture.

For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. ~ James 2:10 — NLT ~

Image Credit: M. Leone Bracker
Image Credit:
M. Leone Bracker

Before we move on with our study of the Law, I want to share a comment that I received in reference to the third commandment, from a fellow blogger and biblical teacher, Ben Nelson, author of the blog, Another Red Letter Day. The third commandment is, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain,” and I offered up several examples of what it is to take the Lord’s name in vain. However, Ben offered an excellent example that I hadn’t thought of until I read his comment. In fact, for me, it was an “aha” moment, and because it is so prevalent among many people, I felt that it was very important to share his comment with you. Ben stated, “I have often thought along the lines that Taking the Lord’s name is when I take the name of Christ as my own – aka – i am a Christian, and then i live like the world – i have taken His name and polluted it before men.” I have nothing to add to this or take away from it. Ben is right, and this is an excellent example of how many people take the Lord’s name in vain. Indeed, it’s an excellent example of how I once took the Lord’s name in vain.

Now, in our continuing study of the Law, we’ve reached the point where we discover that each and every one of us is guilty of breaking the Law. Indeed, the Law’s purpose is to reveal our guilt, and it does this well…

Why, then, was the Law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the Law was designed to last only until the coming of the Child who was promised. God gave His Law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. ~ Galatians 3:19 — NLT ~

Now, we must understand if we are to continue trying to follow the Law, or should we just cast it aside? Are we required to maintain the Law, in order to maintain our salvation? If we choose one, do we lose the other? How can we determine what we are required to do? What does the Word of God tell us about the Law?

Image Credit: parablesblog.blogspot.com
Image Credit:
parablesblog.blogspot.com

31 “The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the Lord.

33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put My instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. 34 And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know Me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” ~ Jeremiah 31:31-34 — NLT ~

According to this scripture passage, the Law of Moses was not an eternal law. It was only temporary, lasting until God’s new covenant was established. Also, according to Galatians 3:19, the Law was only designed to last until Jesus came. 

14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 In this way, He disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by His victory over them on the cross.

16 So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17 For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ Himself is that reality. 18 Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, 19 and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For He holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.

20 You have died with Christ, and He has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21 “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? 22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires. ~ Colossians 2:14-23 — NLT ~

Beloved readers, don’t you see that the Law was given to reveal mankind’s sinful nature, but Jesus cancelled the record of charges against us, by nailing them to the cross? Think about this, the Law has NO power to save anyone. It is the blood of Christ that has saved us from bondage to sin and death, certainly not because we follow the Law. 

Indeed, by following the rules of the world, we do no one any good, because these rules provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires. As a matter of fact, it was Christ’s death on the cross that destroyed the enmity between Jews and Gentiles, and because of His death on the cross, those who believe in Him have been set free from the Law of sin and death. Therefore, why would His followers continue to subject themselves to the Law, which led to death?

14 For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in Himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. ~ Ephesians 2:14-16 — NLT ~

7 The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. 8 Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? 9 If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! 10 In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. 11 So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever!

12 Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. 14 But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ~ 2 Corinthians 3:7-14 — NLT ~

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Image Credit:
meanmesa.com

Beloved, does a veil cover your eyes? Do you see that the Law brings only death? If so, turn your eyes upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Look to Him for salvation, and love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. For those who truly love Christ and walk in His Spirit will obey His commands, which are to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we love Jesus and follow these commands, then we are following the Law that God has written on  our hearts, rather than the Law written on stone tablets, which were destined to fade away. 

Therefore, beloved brothers and sisters, will you choose to live by the Law and therefore die by the Law? Or will you choose to love the Lord Jesus with your whole heart, thereby fulfilling His Law? The choice is yours… 

© 2014
Cheryl A. Showers

Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 4

For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the Law commands. The Law simply shows us how sinful we are. ~ Romans 3:20 — NLT ~

In Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 3we studied the first and second commandments and how each one exposes the sin within us. In this post, today, let’s look at the other Commandments in light of the scripture above…

Exodus 20:2-17
~ 3 ~

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

Image Credit: Jeremy Myers
Image Credit:
Jeremy Myers

Okay friends, I’m sure everyone thought of those people who curse using God’s name, am I right? I don’t know about you, but I confess, that I was guilty of doing this before I came to the Lord, and even as a young Christian.

But, have I broken this commandment since then? Sadly, if I’m to be completely truthful, yes, but not by cussing using His name. To take God’s name in  vain is so much more than using His name as an expletive. Have you ever spoken in His name, when He didn’t tell you to do so? Have you ever presumed to speak for Him, without His permission? Have you ever said, “O my God” or “Jesus”? Have you ever spoken His name thoughtlessly, without really thinking of Him at all? Have you ever prophesied to someone, telling them, “The Lord said…” when in reality, you didn’t Him speak?

My friends, all of those things are examples of what it is to take the Lord’s name in vain, and I confess to you that I have taken His name in vain, and I’m so thankful for His mercy on me.

~ 4 ~

Image Credit: Groupthink Rescue
Image Credit:
Groupthink Rescue

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

Well, my friends, have you ever or do you break this command? Now, I can just hear some people saying, “I go to church every Sunday, so this is one command that I don’t break.” But, I’m going to question that… Does going to church on Sundays equate to remembering the Sabbath day and keeping it holy?

When you get up on Sunday morning and get ready for church, how are you feeling? Do you awaken with joy in your heart, feeling well rested and thankful that this is the day that the Lord has made? As you’re preparing yourself for church, is there aught in your heart against anyone? As you are on your way to go and worship, have you already begun to worship? Are you thinking about God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, or are you thinking of who you will see when you get there? Are you already singing His praises, or are you irritated with your children? As you enter into His sanctuary, were you glad when they said, “Let us go into the House of the Lord?” 

While the service is going on, are you seeking the Lord’s face, or is your mind wandering? Are you intent on worshiping the Lord, or are you bored? As the word is being preached, are you thinking about what you’re going to have for lunch? When you leave the worship service, is your mind still set on the Lord, or are you thinking of other things? Do you spend the rest of the day resting and thinking of the goodness of God, or do you spend the rest of the day thinking of other things?

Honestly, in light of this, I seldom remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. How about you?

~ 5 ~

Image Credit: Holly Barrett
Image Credit:
Holly Barrett

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”

Now, maybe you’re thinking that this one doesn’t need any explanation, and perhaps you’re right. It’s easy to honor parents who were good to you, but what if you come from a dysfunctional family? How do you honor a father who abused you? How do you honor a mother who didn’t protect you? Or how do you honor a father who abandoned you? How do you honor a mother who turned tricks for a living?

Does it honor them to hold a grudge against them? Of course not. We all know that Jesus commands us to forgive others as our Heavenly Father forgives us. And what if you forgive your parents for hurting you, but they never repent of their behavior? Does it honor them for you to pretend the abuse never happened? Does it honor them for you to continue allowing them to abuse you?

Oftentimes, church leaders can harm those members who have been abused, by heaping guilt on them because they do not have a close relationship with their parents. Sometimes, they will insinuate that you haven’t truly forgiven them, because you don’t visit them or talk to them, and often, they will cite the fifth commandment when doing so.

I want to speak to those of you who want to do the right thing, and yet you struggle, because you don’t know how to honor parents who have been less than honorable. I speak to you as one who has struggled with the same issues. I loved my parents, despite years of abuse, and no repentance, and I forgave them. I spent many years apart from my parents, while much of my family judged me as a bad daughter, because they didn’t know of the abuse. The fact is they probably still feel that way, because most still don’t know.

So, how did I honor my parents? I honored them by staying away. I honored them by refusing to pretend the abuse didn’t happen. I honored them by respecting their wishes when my stepfather told me to leave and never come back. I honored them by staying away, so they wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable around me, and by staying away from the rest of the family and letting them believe the worst of me, so they wouldn’t turn against my parents.

I honored them by obeying the Lord’s gentle prodding to enter back into their lives the last couple of years they lived. I honored them by forgiving them each time they added to my hurt. I honored them by loving them, even though they never said the three words I desperately longed to hear, “I’m sorry, Cheryl.” I honor them by continuing to love them.

Is this how I recommend others, who have been hurt and abused by their parents, to act? Partially. I understand that every circumstance is different, and our heavenly Father understands that as well. My only two recommendations for you are to love and forgive your parents. By doing this, you honor them. As far as the rest goes, treat your parents as you would want your children to treat you, and by doing this, you will honor them, regardless of whether they are good or bad parents.

Have you broken this commandment? I did, many times, but by God’s grace, I learned to honor my parents.

~ 6 ~

Image Credit: M. Leone Bracker
Image Credit:
M. Leone Bracker

“You shall not murder.”

I know, most of you think you haven’t broken that commandment, but I’ll be honest and confess to you that I have. In fact, you could say that I’m a serial killer, in light of these scriptures…

Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. ~ 1 John 3:15 — NLT ~

21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. ~ Matthew 5:21-22 — NLT ~

Beloved readers, are any of you as guilty of breaking this commandment as I am?

~ 7 ~

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Image Credit:
beyeready.org

“You shall not commit adultery.”

Beloved readers, before you say you haven’t broken this commandment, let’s look at Jesus’ definition of the command…

27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ~ Matthew 5:27-28 — NLT ~

In light of Jesus’ definition of adultery, have you broken this law?

~ 8 ~

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Image Credit:
wholeworldinhishands.com

“You shall not steal.”

When I was young, I used to “borrow” my mother’s jewelry and makeup, and wear it to school. Whenever my conscience pricked me, I would reason that I was only “borrowing” her things, and that I would put it back. However, the fact is that I knew my mother did not want me to take her things, and if she ever found out, I would be toast.  I knew that what I was doing was wrong, and I also knew that when you take something that isn’t yours, without the owner giving you permission to take it, then it is stealing.

I knew this, even though I wasn’t a Christian yet. I knew this because even though I didn’t yet know Christ, God’s law was written on my heart.

14 Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know His law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. 16 And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life. ~ Romans 2:14-16 — NLT ~

Not only that, when you work for someone, if you lie about the hours you work, it is stealing. If you spend the time you are being paid to work, doing other things, you are robbing the person who pays you. If you take anything that belongs to your place of employment, it is stealing.

Have you ever “borrowed” something without asking for the owner’s permission first? Have you ever goofed off or slacked off, when you should have been working? Beloved readers, that’s stealing. Have you ever broken this command?

~ 9 ~

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Image Credit:
sites.google.com

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Have you ever lied and said someone did something that they didn’t do? As a child, this was one of my worst traits. I can’t tell you the number of times that I blamed my younger sister for the things that I did. Of course I would excuse myself by reasoning that since she was the favored child, she wouldn’t be beaten or punished as severely as I would have been, but even though this may have been true, it couldn’t cleanse me from the guilt I felt for lying and bearing false witness against my sister. Beloved reader, has there ever been a time in your life when you bore false witness against someone else?

~ 10 ~

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” 

Gollum by: DarDesign
Gollum
by: DarDesign

Have you ever wanted something that belonged to someone else? Have you ever thought to yourself that the other person doesn’t deserve that treasure as much as you do? Beloved readers, that’s coveting. Have you ever broken this command?

In the last post and this post, we reviewed the Law of Moses, also known as the Ten Commandments, and I don’t know about you, but I’m guilty of breaking every single command. Indeed, every time I study the Ten Commandments, I realize once again, how terribly I’ve sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, just as this Scripture tells us…

For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the Law commands. The Law simply shows us how sinful we are.~ Romans 3:20 — NLT ~

Friends, the Law was never meant to save us. The reason God created the Law was to do exactly what it says in the Scripture above. It was meant to show us how sinful we are…

Why, then, was the Law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the Law was designed to last only until the coming of the Child who was promised. God gave His Law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. ~ Galatians 3:19 — NLT ~

Image Credit: the2520.com
Image Credit:
the2520.com

Beloved, the Law of Moses was only designed to last until the Child, Christ Jesus, came. My friends, He has come, gone back to heaven, and is coming again, and He fulfilled every single one of the Law’s commands. Therefore, what are we to do with the Law, now? Should we turn our backs on it and live in complete disobedience to it? May it never be! We’ll look for the answer to this question in Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 5.

Meanwhile, continue to seek the Lord, study His word, and pray fervently for Him to open the eyes of your heart, so that He will give you an understanding of His will for your life. May God bless you as you not only learn and gain an understanding of His word, but as you also apply His word to your life.

© 2014
Cheryl A. Showers

Related Posts:

Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 3

For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the Law commands. The Law simply shows us how sinful we are.~ Romans 3:20 — NLT ~

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Image Credit:
mk16-15evangelismteam.com

In my last post, Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 2we learned that the Jews turned the Ten Commandments, (also known as the Law or the Law of Moses), into six hundred thirteen laws, known as the Tradition of the EldersTheir purpose in creating all of these laws, as convoluted as it seems, was to protect the Ten Commandments. They purposed that following the Tradition of the Elders would ensure the people’s obedience to the Law of Moses. If you haven’t been following this series and would like to start at the beginning, please click, Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 1.

Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. ~ Galatians 3:19 — NLT ~

Image Credit: probingfaith.com
Image Credit:
probingfaith.com

In addition to learning about the Tradition of the Elders, we discovered the purpose for the Law, which is stated in today’s scripture, Romans 3:20and also in the Scripture above… Today we are going to study the Law of Moses or the Ten Commandments as it is best known, while keeping in mind the Law’s purpose, which is to show people their sins. As we make our way through each of these commandments one by one, I encourage you to search your heart to see where you have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, while I search my own.

Exodus 20:2-17 — NKJV
~ 1 ~

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Image Credit:
sandwichink.com

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.”

This is God’s first command, and sadly, I’ve broken this command too many times to count. You see, before I knew Christ, as my Lord and Savior, everything came before God, and the truth is that even as a born-again Christian, there have been too many times when I failed to put God first. In fact, the truth is that even now, after serving the Lord for many years, there are still times that I have to repent because I’ve put my own desires ahead of Him and His desires for me. Do you ever struggle with this command?

~ 2 ~

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Image Credit:
churchhousecollection.com

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments”

When I was younger, I struggled with the meaning of this Command. Was the Lord saying that it is a sin to draw, or carve or paint? After all, it seemed that His instructions were very clear and specific. Do not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth…” Indeed, this is how this scripture has been interpreted by many people throughout the ages, and it sure seems to be the correct assumption, when you take this quote out of its context.

However, I always had a hard time believing that God hates art. After all, He is the giver of our gifts and talents. Now, as I grew in my love and knowledge of the Lord, I came to see that I was incorrect in the way that I had interpreted this verse. You see, this Command is not about the artwork as much as it is about the condition of the artist’s heart and/or the one who owns the art work. Let’s look at this Command again, in the whole context:

Image Credit: catholiccompany.com
Image Credit:
catholiccompany.com

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments”

Let’s also take a look at the Hebrew word translated as “carved image” in the New King James Version, and graven image,” in the King James Version of the Bible: 

Pecel = idol or image. 

Image Credit: slaveofjesuschrist.me
Image Credit:
slaveofjesuschrist.me

Do you see the whole picture? God doesn’t hate artwork. He doesn’t hate knick-knacks, pictures, paintings, sculptures or statues. His concern and His Command was about our heart, and our relationship with Him. Do you remember what the children of Israel were doing while Moses was on Mt. Sinai getting the Ten Commandments from God? They were melting their gold and and pressuring Aaron to create a golden calf to worship instead of the Living God!

Image Credit: hissheep.org
Image Credit:
hissheep.org

Do you imagine He didn’t know what was going on when He wrote that Command? Think about this, the same God who told the people not to create any images in heaven or earth, also Commanded the artists to create golden cherubim (which are in heaven) to go on top of the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant. He commanded the artists to create the menorah to resemble an almond tree with buds, branches and flowers (all of which are on the earth), and He commanded those who sewed the curtains and the veil of the tabernacle to weave angels into them.

Beloved readers, let’s examine our hearts. Do you, or have you ever worshiped any idols? Before you answer, let me share a few examples of idol worship with you… 

    • Do you, or have you ever worshiped or prayed to any pictures, paintings or photographs?
      • i.e. — I’ve seen people who in the midst of a disaster, will risk their lives to save photographs of their loved ones. I may offend you by saying so, but this is an example of idol worship.
    • Do you, or have you ever prayed to or worshiped a carved or graven image?
      • i.e. — This would include praying to a crucifix, using rosary beads, a picture of anything or any one, including a picture of Jesus. Again, this may be offensive, but if you worship or pray to any man made image, this is idolatry, even if you say that you are worshiping Jesus.
    • Do you, or have you ever prayed or worshiped a loved one or created a shrine for your loved one?
      • i.e. — This too, may be offensive to many, but I must speak the truth. When a loved one dies, if we respond to his/her death by creating a shrine for them, and go to this place to pray to or talk to your deceased loved one, this too, is idolatry.
    • Perhaps you’ve done none of the above, but do you, or have you ever chosen to watch a program on t.v., or attend a sporting event, when you felt the Lord calling you to spend time with Him? If so, beloved reader, this too, is idolatry.

I don’t know about you, but in light of all this, I have to confess that I have been guilty of idolatry. You see, beloved reader, we’ve only looked at the first two commandments in the Law, and the Law has already shown me that I am a sinful woman in need of my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. For He alone can set me free from the bondage of sin and death. 

My friends, I don’t know if you have been born again or not, but, if you have broken God’s law, then you are in need of a Savior. We’ve only looked at two of the Ten Commandments, and I don’t know about you, but I am guilty of breaking both of those Laws, and here’s what the bible says about it…

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23 — NLT ~

If you want to be set free from a life of sin and death, I urge you to call upon the name of the Lord, for whosoever calls upon His name will be saved. The bible tells us what we need to do…

9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. ~ Romans 10:9-10 — NLT ~

If you, like me are a Christian, who has sinned against God, repent and confess your sins to God, as He commands in His word…

But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. ~ 1 John 1:9 — NLT ~

Thank you for joining me for Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 3and I pray you will join me for Live By the Law/Die By the Law ~ Part 4as we continue this study of the Law with the other Commandments. 

This is my prayer for each one of us as we continue to study the Law… Father, I pray that as we study what Your word says about Your Laws, that You would open the eyes of our hearts, so that we would not only gain head knowledge. Let Your word be planted deep within our hearts, and help us to apply all that we learn from You and about You, so that we would walk in Your Spirit, and not in our flesh. I pray Lord, that you would take our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh. I also ask You to give each one of us a teachable spirit, so that we would not harden our hearts against You and the truth of Your word, because Jesus said that we will know the Truth, and the Truth will set us free… And whom the Son sets free, is free indeed. Father, I praise You and I thank You for all that You have done, for all that You are doing, and for all that You will do for each one of us as we continue in this study of Your Law and what it means to us. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

© 2014
Cheryl A. Showers

The Strongest Judge… An Answer to the Riddle

Image Credit: christianselfstudy.com
Image Credit:
christianselfstudy.com

In those days, a man continued to live at home, with his parents, until he married, unless the Lord called him to go elsewhere, and so it was with Samson. As they raised this son the Lord had blessed them with, Samson’s mother and father were very careful to follow YHWH’s instructions, and train him in the way that he should go. And as Samson reached manhood, while still living with his parents, the Spirit of the Lord began to stir in him. 

Samson was a virile young man, full of vim and vigor, and though his parents loved him dearly, and considered themselves very blessed to have him, the fact is that raising him according to the instructions laid out by the Lord, had proven to be quite challenging. For Samson was very headstrong, and often very belligerent as well, when he didn’t get his own way. And now, though he was no longer a child, he still worried his parents, who knew that God had created Samson for greatness. For although he was older now, and though the Spirit of the Lord had begun to stir in him, Samson was still very rebellious.

The couple had just finished praying for their beloved son, when the door opened with a crash, and Samson entered, kissing first his father, and then his mother on the cheek, before grabbing a hand full of figs from the table. “You seem very cheerful,” his mother said with a smile, as Samson joined his parents at the table. “Where did you go today?”

Image Credit: photogallery.indiatimes.com
Image Credit:
photogallery.indiatimes.com

Grinning broadly, Samson responded, “I was in Timnah today, Imah, and I saw the most beautiful girl there.” Turning to his father, Samson continued, “She’s a Philistine, and I want to marry her, Abba. Go and make the arrangements for me to marry her, ok?”

“Son, surely you jest!” His mother exclaimed, while Manoah pounded his fist on the table and shouted.

“A Philistine?!? Samson, have you lost your mind? Isn’t there one woman in our tribe, or even among all of Israel, that you could marry?”

“No, Abba,” he replied. “I want her. Get her for me.”

“Son, must you go to the pagan Philistines for a bride?” both his father and mother pleaded. Neither of them realized that the Lord was at work, even in this.

Finally, seeing that they couldn’t change his mind about marrying the Philistine girl, Samson’s parents went with him to Timnah, where the girl lived. As his parents slowly trudged along, Samson walked much more briskly, exuberantly pulling ahead of his parents in his eagerness to get there as quickly as possible. 

Image Credit: samsonthenazirite.wordpress.com
Image Credit:
samsonthenazirite.wordpress.com

And so it was that as he was walking along, Samson heard the loud roar of a lion. His heart pounded loudly, as the lion lunged at him. Then, quickly, as the Spirit of the Lord fell upon him, without even thinking, Samson grabbed the open mouth of the lion before it closed on him, and ripped the beast in half. After killing the beast, he tossed the carcass into the vineyard by the roadside, and returned to hurry his parents along. Not wanting to trouble them, he kept the lion’s attack on him a secret.

When he saw the young Philistine woman again, Samson found her more desirable than ever, and so his father proceeded to arrange the marriage between his son and the Philistine. Finally, after nearly three months of negotiations, the marriage between the two was arranged. Samson was ecstatic, and when he was returning to Timnah for his wedding, he left the path and walked into the vineyard, where he had thrown the lion’s body. As he gazed at the dead animal’s body, he saw that a swarm of bees had made some honey within its cavity.

Image Credit: goodsalt.com
Image Credit:
goodsalt.com

Grinning broadly, Samson scooped a handful of the honey, bringing its golden sweetness to his lips, tasting its syrupy goodness. After enjoying his fill of nature’s sweet nectarine, he carried some to his parents. “Oh Samson!” his mother exclaimed, “How wonderful! Where did you find it?”

Laughing joyfully, Samson ignored her question, instead urging his parents to hurry to Timnah, for his wedding. The Philistine girl was a beauty, and he was eager to make her his bride. Of course the truth is that he was looking forward to the party tonight, as well.

Once they got to town, while his father was making the final wedding arrangements, Samson threw a party for thirty young men, who were companions especially chosen for him by his bride’s parents. There was much fun and revelry at the party, as the young men all laughed and joked together. In the midst of all their merrymaking, Samson came up with a new game for his companions to play.

Image Credit: laymansbible.wordpress.com
Image Credit:
laymansbible.wordpress.com

“Friends, who wants to join me in a new game?” The young men looked at him expectantly, as he continued, “I have a riddle for you, and if any of you solve the riddle during these seven days of my marriage celebration, I’ll give you thirty fine linen robes and thirty  sets of festive clothing.” As the young men nodded eagerly, leaning closer to hear what he had to say, Samson lifted his right hand up to them, “But,” he said, “if no one can solve the riddle, then you must give me thirty fine linen robes and thirty sets of festive clothing. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” the young men shouted eagerly. “Now tell us the riddle!”

“Very well then,” Samson replied. “Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet.” After sharing his riddle with them, he burst out laughing. There was no way any of them would ever guess the answer to his riddle — not even if they had a million years to figure it out, for no one knew about the lion he had killed or the honey he had scooped up and eaten from it. He hadn’t even told his parents about it.

The men thought and thought about Samson’s riddle, only to become more and more frustrated with each wrong answer. As one day passed into another, and they were no closer to knowing the answer to the riddle, the young men began to get angry, and Samson’s laughter at their expense didn’t help their mood. For three days, they tried to guess the answer to Samson’s riddle with no luck, and finally, on the fourth day, they had enough.

While some of the young men distracted Samson, several others approached his wife, telling her, “You’d better coax your husband into telling you the answer to that stupid riddle for us. Otherwise, we’ll burn your father’s house down, with you in it! Did you all invite us to this party just to rob us and make us poor?”

With her life and the lives of her family at stake, Samson’s bride quickly approached him and tried to get him to tell her the answer to his riddle, but Samson laughingly brushed her aside, refusing to answer her, even when she burst into tears. “You don’t even love me, do you?” she cried. “You hate me, don’t you? How could you give my people a riddle and not even tell me the answer?” she desperately wept.

“Oh come on, honey,” Samson consoled her, as she lay in his arms later on that night, crying inconsolably. “I haven’t even told my parents the answer to my riddle, so why should I tell you?” At this answer, she just cried even harder. 

During what should have been one of the most joyful occasions of their life, both Samson and the girl were miserable. She was despairing for fear that the men would murder her and her family, while Samson was tormented by her constant nagging and crying. Finally, on the seventh day of the celebration, unable to bear her weeping and whining any longer, Samson told her the answer to the riddle.

His young wife was both relieved and elated, and as soon as she was able to get away from Samson, she ran to explain the riddle’s answer to the young men. She knew that she was risking Samson’s wrath by doing so, but that seemed a minor thing in comparison to losing her life and the lives of her family members. The young men roared with raucous laughter when she told them. For now, the joke was on Samson, and not them.

They waited until just before sunset to approach Samson, bowing mockingly before him. Samson, certain that they couldn’t possibly know the answer to his riddle, looked down upon them, condescendingly saying, “So you think you can answer my riddle, do you?”

Then, altogether, as though they had rehearsed it, the thirty young men answered in unison, “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?”

At their response, Samson’s face turned beet red, as he realized that his wife had betrayed him after being married for less than a week. He was furious as he looked from one mocking face to another, and he bellowed, If you hadn’t plowed with my heifer, you wouldn’t have solved my riddle!”

Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon the enraged bridegroom, and Samson went down to the town of Ashkelon and killed thirty men. Then, taking their clothing and their belongings, he then threw their clothing at the feet of the thirty young men. This was their payment for answering his riddle.

Afterward, still furious at his wife’s betrayal, Samson returned to his parents’ house. 

© 2014
Cheryl A. Showers

The Strongest Judge… Good News!

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The following story was taken from Judges 13…

A long, long time ago in Israel, before they had kings to rule over them, God was Israel’s King. For more than 300 years, after escaping from slavery in Egypt, under Moses’ leadership, and after wandering in the desert for 40 years, God appointed judges to rule and lead the children of Israel. Now, during the time of these judges, the children of Israel were sometimes very faithful to the Lord, while other times, (often when one of the judges would die, and before another took over), the Israelites would do what was evil in the Lord’s sight, choosing to do what was right in their own eyes, rather than walking in obedience to God. During this time, the nation of Israel did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, and so He handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for 40 years.

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Now, it was when the nation of Israel had chosen to go their own way, rather than walking in obedience to God, and were suffering under the oppression of the Philistines, that a woman received a very special visitor, who brought her good news. This woman was married to a man named Manoah, who was from the tribe of Dan, and though they had been married for many years, they had no children, for she was barren.

When she was younger, she suffered from deep depression, especially when her friends were having one baby after another, year after year, while she was unable to conceive even one. For many years, she had cried out to YHWH, the Creator of all life, pleading for Him to give her a child, but finally, she had accepted the fact that she would never know the joy of carrying a new life in her womb. Therefore, she made up her mind that she would make the best of the situation, and though she couldn’t give her husband a baby, she determined to be the best wife any man could want in every other way.

That’s not to say that she didn’t still have bad days, because sometimes, when she thought about what it would have been like to give Manoah the son they both longed for, it felt like her heart would be rent apart. On those days, it was hard to stop the tears from flowing, but she tried not to let her husband see her pain, because it broke his heart to see her so upset. He was a good man, who loved her deeply, and the only thing worse than her own pain was seeing pain in Manoah’s eyes.

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And so this precious woman resolved that she would love and serve the Lord with all her heart, and place all of her trust in Him. For though He had given her no children, He had blessed her in other ways. After all, she had a wonderful husband who loved her dearly, despite the fact that she could give him no heirs. She also had a lovely home to live in, plenty of food, clothes on her back and so much more. How could she not love the Lord her Provider?

Yet, as deep as this woman’s love for the Lord was, His love for her was even deeper. You see, long before He laid the foundations of the earth, Elohim had given her a very special place in history, and though no one remembers her name, they do remember her story…

One day, while she was drawing water from the well, a Stranger appeared before her, saying, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.”

She was elated. So strong was her faith in God, that it never occurred to her to question or doubt the Stranger’s words. As soon as He finished speaking and left, she gathered the hem of her robe in hand and took off running, (Yes, running at her age!) to find Manoah as quickly as possible and share the good news with him. 

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“Manoah! Manoah!” she shouted. “A Man of God came to me; His face was fearsome, like that of the Angel of God. I didn’t ask Him where He came from, and He didn’t tell me His name. But He told me, ‘You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. For your son will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from the moment of his birth until the day of his death.’”

Manoah was stunned as he gazed down into his wife’s glowing eyes. She was radiant with joy, reminding him of the girl she had once been, before the cares of life had doused her youthful luminescence. Manoah didn’t question his wife’s sanity, for he, too, was a man who loved the Lord, and like his wife, he had a deep and abiding faith in the Almighty One. Therefore, in response to her joyful announcement, he dropped to his knees, praying, “Lord, please let the Man of God come back to us again and give us more instructions about this son who is to be born.”

In answer to Manoah’s earnest prayer, the Angel of the Lord appeared once again to the woman of God, this time, while she was sitting in the field. Hurriedly, she ran to find her husband, telling him, “The Man who appeared to me the other day is here again!”

Quickly, Manoah ran back to the field with his wife to find the Angel of the Lord and question Him. “Are you the One who spoke to my wife the other day?” When the Angel of the Lord responded that He was indeed the one who had spoken to Manoah’s wife, he began to question Him about what rules should govern the child’s life. He repeated to Manoah what He had spoken to his wife a few days prior.

After listening to the Angel of the Lord’s instructions, Manoah invited Him to stay, while he and his wife prepared a goat for Him to eat. The Angel of the Lord agreed to stay, but informed them that He would not be eating the goat. Instead, He instructed them to offer the goat as a sacrifice to the Lord.

Manoah, still unaware that this was the Angel of the Lord, agreed to do so, asking Him for His name. “Why do you ask for My name?” He responded, “since it is Wonderful?”

Manoah then offered the goat and a grain offering as well, on a rock. Then, what happened next, caused both Manoah and his wife to fall to the ground on their faces in worship, as a flame of fire shot up from the altar toward heaven, and the angel of the Lord soared up to heaven in the flame. It was then, that Manoah realized that this was the Angel of the Lord. As he grabbed his wife’s hand, and the two stood, looking up to heaven, he whispered fearfully, “Now, we shall surely die, for we have seen God!”

Tenderly, this woman of great faith looked up into her husband’s eyes, taking his face into her hands, as she responded softly, “No Manoah. If the Lord was going to kill us, He wouldn’t have accepted our offering. And surely, He wouldn’t have appeared to us to give us such wonderful news and shown us such miraculous things!” Tears slid down both of their faces as they held one another in the field that day, and worshiped their Creator…

And so it was that before the year was over, the faithful woman truly did give birth to a son, as the Lord had promised, and she named him Samson, which means, “sun,” perhaps in homage to the brilliance of the Lord that flashed before her and her husband, the day they saw the Lord ascend into heaven in a flame…

© 2014
Cheryl Showers

My Soul Longs for You, Lord

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1 As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. 2 I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before Him?

3 Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, “Where is this God of yours?” 4 My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration!

5 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again—my Savior and 6 my God!

~ Psalm 42:1-6a — NLT ~

Times and seasons change, and much as we love those mountaintop experiences, they don’t last. For as surely as we will enjoy the highs, there will also be those times when we are brought low. And as joyful as those high times are, the valley experiences will carry as much or more pain…

depressedSo how do we endure? And why, if I’m a child of the Most High God, can’t I stay on top of the mountain? I’ve been told, and even foolishly believed it myself, that Christians aren’t supposed to be depressed or discouraged. And those who do experience such emotions are at the very least, weak and faithless Christians or at worst, not really even Christians at all…

Father, forgive me for all of the foolish things that I’ve believed over the years, based on what men say, rather than what Your word says. Forgive me, Father, for the times I’ve condemned myself and others, for the pain we were enduring due to being weighed down by a spirit of heaviness. 

When I think of all of the biblical heroes who suffered from depression during their lifetimes, I am ashamed for the pain I’ve added to others who suffered from it, due to my ignorance…

King David suffered from depression many times during his life, when King Saul sought to kill him… when his murderous, adulterous affair with Bathsheba was revealed, resulting in the death of their first-born son… when his son, Absalom tried to steal his kingdom from him, just to name a few…

Job_113-1180Job, a blameless man of complete integrity, was quite depressed after losing his family, fortune, and his health. Having to endure the hurtful speculation of his friends about what could have caused his loss only served to increase his pain, and as if his friends’ criticism wasn’t bad enough for the poor man to endure, his wife went to him and told him that he might as well just curse God and die!  Then, there was Elijah, one of the Old Testament’s greatest prophets, who in just one day, called fire down from heaven, consuming both his offering and the offerings made to the false gods of 400 other prophets. As if that demonstration of God’s power through His servant Elijah wasn’t enough, Elijah then singlehandedly killed those 400 false prophets, before falling into a deep depression just a few hours later, when the wicked Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him…

After being imprisoned, and with his impending beheading looming ahead, John the Baptist fell into depression, which led him to doubt and question the very thing that he had once been so certain of…

2 John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 3 “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

~ Matthew 11:2-3 — NLT ~

john_the_baptist_in_prison_350Now, remember, this is the same John, Jesus’ cousin, who leapt in Elizabeth’s (his mother’s) womb, when Mary (who was pregnant with Jesus) greeted her. For even in utero, John recognized the Savior that he was to be the forerunner for. And when he saw Jesus again, at the Jordan River, more than thirty years later…

John testified about Him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for He existed long before me.’”

~ John 1:15 — NLT ~

John also made this testimony about Jesus…

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A Man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for He existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize Him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that He might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon Him.33 I didn’t know He was the One, but when God sent me to baptize with water, He told me, ‘The One on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that He is the Chosen One of God.”

~ John 1:29-34 — NLT ~

Here, we see that even this mighty man of God’s faith wavered in the midst of depression and anxiety, and it’s important to see how Jesus responded to John, so that we, too can respond to our brothers and sisters who may be in the midst of depression and anxiety in a like manner…

4 Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 5 the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. 6 And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of Me.’”

7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began talking about him to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? 8 Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces.9 Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. 10 John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say,

‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    and he will prepare your way before you.

11 “I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is! 12 And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it. 13 For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time. 14 And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come. 15 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”

~ Matthew 11:4-15 — NLT ~

Do you see that in Jesus’ response to John’s question there is no condemnation of John for his weakness? Instead, Jesus affirmed what John already knew and had testified to, before he was imprisoned and discouraged… “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of Me.'” You see, Jesus was telling John that Isaiah’s prophecy of Messiah (Isaiah 61:1) was being fulfilled through Him. He also encouraged John not to turn away because of Him, because God would bless him… 

I also love what Jesus then told the others about John. Instead of calling John a loser because of his discouragement and doubt, Jesus informed them that John was more than a prophet. He also let them know that John was Messiah’s forerunner, and that none who had ever lived was greater than John the Baptist… Isn’t that wonderful? In the midst of John’s terrible situation and his depression, Jesus still counted him as great in the Kingdom…

helpesless8trackscoverTherefore, knowing that so many great men and women of God suffered from depression and discouragement, how can we as Christians, condemn one another by minimizing the feelings of a brother or sister in Christ, who is depressed? Is it really fair for us to claim that a “good Christian” should not experience the depths of depression, when clearly, scripture shows us something altogether different? Should we hurl accusations of the person’s faith being “weak”? Or should we pray for our brother or sister, and encourage him/her with the word of God?

5 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again—my Savior and 6 my God!

~ Psalm 42:5-6 — NLT ~

Do you suffer from depression and discouragement, man or woman of God? Be encouraged! You are not alone. Men and women of God throughout the centuries have suffered through and overcome depression, and it does not make them any less a man or woman of God. Indeed, those who suffer through these difficult times often learn to draw closer to the Almighty One, who alone is able to deliver us from our pain! May the Lord bless you and set you free!

© 2014
Cheryl A. Showers

SHEMA – LISTEN! (PART 2)

שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל:  יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְהוָה אֶחָד
.וְאָהַבְתָּ, אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ, וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ~

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4 “Sh’ma, Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one]; 5 and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 – CJB~

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Beloved readers, just as Israel was commanded many thousands of years ago to Listen! Hear! Understand and obey, so we too, are called to Listen! Hear! Understand and obey! Therefore, please join me as we venture into the Word of God, specifically into His Shema, so that we can learn to listen to Him and hear His voice through His word and His commands.

Shema! Listen to me… hear me and understand that YHWH (the Lord your God) is ONE… That means that besides Him, there is no other…

5 “I am Adonai; there is no other;
besides Me there is no God.
I am arming you, although you don’t know Me,
6 so that those from the east and those from the west
will know that there is none besides Me —
I am Adonai; there is no other.
7 I form light, I create darkness;
I make well-being, I create woe;
I, Adonai, do all these things.”

~ Isaiah 45:5-7 —  CJB ~

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Hallelujah! There is only One God, and He is not Allah… He is not Buddah… He is not one of many ways… He says, “I am Adonai {the LORD}; there is no other; besides Me there is no God.” ~ Isaiah 45:5 — CJB ~ You see, beloved readers, there is only One God, and besides Him, there is no God…

This One God is the Creator of all things… He is the One by whom and through whom all things were created…

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

~ Genesis 1:1 — CJB ~

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing made had being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not suppressed it.

~ John 1:1-5 — CJB ~

15 He {Christ} is the visible image of the invisible God. He is supreme over all creation, 16 because in connection with Him were created all things — in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, lordships, rulers or authorities — they have all been created through Him and for Him. 17 He existed before all things, and He holds everything together.

~ Colossians 1:15-17 — CJB ~

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When the Jews recite the Shema, they usually do so, while placing their hands over their eyes. This is done to symbolize that they are blocking any distractions from interfering with their listening, hearing, speaking and understanding the Shema… 

4 “Sh’ma, Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one]; 5 and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 – CJB~

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Listen… hear… pay close attention… UNDERSTAND, Israel… believers from every tongue and tribe and nation… Christians… ADONAI (YHWH) is ONE… He is the ONLY One… Beside Him, there is no other God (or god).

Understand, my friends, my beloved readers, there is only ONE God, and His name is not Allah or Mohhamed. His name is not Buddah. His name is YHWH — the Self-existing One… His name is YHWH — “I AM that I AM…” He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit — three in ONE… He is the Alpha and the Omega — the beginning and the end… He is the First and the Last… His name is Jesus — Only Begotten Son of God…

16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in Him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but rather so that through Him, the world might be saved…”

~ John 3:16-17 — CJB ~

42 Yeshua replied to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me; because I came out from God; and now I have arrived here. I did not come on My own; He sent Me. 43 Why don’t you understand what I’m saying? Because you can’t bear to listen to My message. 44 You belong to your father, Satan, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. From the start he was a murderer, and he has never stood by the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he is speaking in character; because he is a liar — indeed, the inventor of the lie! 45 But as for Me, because I tell the truth you don’t believe Me. 46 Which one of you can show Me where I’m wrong? If I’m telling the truth, why don’t you believe Me? 47 Whoever belongs to God listens to what God says; the reason you don’t listen is that you don’t belong to God.”

~ John 8:42-47 — CJB ~

54 Yeshua answered, “If I praise Myself, My praise counts for nothing. The One who is praising Me is My Father, the very One about whom you keep saying, ‘He is our God.’ 55 Now you have not known Him, but I do know Him; indeed, if I were to say that I don’t know Him, I would be a liar like you! But I do know Him, and I obey His word. 56 Avraham, your father, was glad that he would see My day; then he saw it and was overjoyed.”

57 “Why, you’re not yet fifty years old,” the Judeans replied, “and you have seen Avraham?” 58 Yeshua said to them, “Yes, indeed! Before Avraham came into being, I AM!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Yeshua was hidden and left the Temple grounds.

~ John 8:54-59 — CJB ~

6 Yeshua said, “I AM the Way — and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me. 7 Because you have known Me, you will also know My Father; from now on, you do know Him — in fact, you have seen Him.”

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it will be enough for us.” 9 Yeshua replied to him, “Have I been with you so long without your knowing Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am united with the Father, and the Father united with Me? What I am telling you, I am not saying on My own initiative; the Father living in Me is doing His own works.11 Trust Me, that I am united with the Father, and the Father united with Me. But if you can’t, then trust because of the works themselves.

~ John 14:6-11 — CJB ~

Hear, O Israel… Hear all you nations of the earth… Understand what I am saying… Comprehend these statements… Ponder on them and meditate on them… The Lord {Adonai… YHWH… Father… Abba} our God is One God… Beside Him, there is  no other God {god}… 

I’ve only just barely scratched the surface in this, the second post about the Shema… In Part 3, we’ll talk about loving the Lord, but for now, let’s simply focus our gaze on this one thought… There is ONLY ONE GOD. There are not many gods — only ONE GOD…

This was shown to you, so that you would know that Adonai is God, and there is no other beside Him.

~ Deuteronomy 4:35 — CJB ~

There are not many WAYS to GOD, contrary to what the world would have you believe… There is only ONE WAY…

Yeshua said, “I AM the Way — and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except throug Me.

~ John 14:6 — CJB ~

What better way can we begin the New Year, than by fixing our thoughts on Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith? Let us begin this New Year by remembering, prayiing, pondering and dwelling on this one thought… The Lord our God is One God… 

Heavenly Father, as we begin this New Year of 2014, let us fix our thoughts on You — the ONLY God… Let us remember and ponder on thoughts of You, our Creator… God our Father, Maker of heaven and earth. Let us fix our sights on Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God, through whom and for whom all things were created and are held together… Let us fix our hearts on Holy Spirit, who lives within the hearts of each believer, giving us wisdom and instruction, as He guides us in all truth. As we fix our hearts, our souls, our minds and our strength on remembering these things, I pray Lord, that You will show us Your glory. Teach us, and draw us ever closer to You in Jesus’ name. Amen.

© 2014
Cheryl A. Showers

Related articles

Shema – Listen! (Part 1)

.שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל:  יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְהוָה אֶחָד
.וְאָהַבְתָּ, אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ, וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ

~ Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ~

4 “Sh’ma, Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one]; 5 and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources.

~ Deuteronomy 6:4-5 — CJB~

o_shema_na_foto_hebreia_ver_3_deut_6_4_5-rc2a2691bf92b46ec941fed77e4428240_fk9n_8byvr_324This is one of the most powerful and important scripture passages in the bible. It is of such great import that all of Israel was commanded to keep these words on his heart. They were to meditate on these words, to teach them to their children, to talk about them at home and when they traveled, when they were in bed and when they got up…

6 These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart; 7 and you are to teach them carefully to your children. You are to talk about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them on your hand as a sign, put them at the front of a headband around your forehead, 9 and write them on the door-frames of your house and on your gates.

~ Deuteronomy 6:6-9 — CJB ~

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In other words, the people of Israel were (and still are) to love the Lord with their whole heart. “Shema Yisra’el!” Moses told the people. “Listen to me! Hear me!” Whenever we have something important to share with someone, we often preface it with the words, “Listen to me or  Hear me!” It is the same with the Lord, when He wants our attention, so He can share something with us. He tells us…

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

~ Revelation 3:22 — NKJV ~

Open your ears, and come to Me;
listen well, and you will live —
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
the grace I assured David.

~ Isaiah 55:3 — CJB ~

Beloved, this word is not just for Israel. This word is for every man, woman and child that lives, that ever has lived and that ever will live. The word that I share with you today is life, so I entreat you, Shema! Listen to me! Hear me!

4 “Sh’ma, Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one]; 5 and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 — CJB~

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As a mother, when I told my children to listen, I didn’t just mean that I wanted them to hear me, because all too often, children hear what we’re saying, as the words go into one ear and out through the other. When I told my children, or when I tell my grandchildren, or when I am telling you to listen, I don’t just want you to hear my words. I want you to heed my words. I want you to take these words to heart and ponder them. I want you to act on these words. 

Shema Beloved Reader! There is only One God, and you must love Him with all of your heart… So, what does it mean to love with our whole heart?

The Hebrew word for heart used here is lebab (pronounced lā·väv’)

I.     inner man, mind, will, heart, soul, understanding

A.     inner part, midst

i.     midst (of things)
ii.    heart (of man)
iii.   soul, heart (of man)
iv.   mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory
v.    inclination, resolution, determination (of will)
vi.   conscience
vii.  heart (of moral character)
viii. as seat of appetites
ix.   as seat of emotions and passions
x.    as seat of courage

Shema Beloved Readers! There is only One God, and you must love the Him with all of your heart… your inner man… your mind… your will… your soul… your understanding… Shema! Hear me – this is not a half-hearted act on your part. You are commanded to love the Lord your God with ALL your heart.

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This means that you are to love Him with your entire inmost being. I love digging deeply into the word, so that I can understand more fully what it is that the Lord is commanding us to do. The Lord commands us to love Him with our full heart, in the midst of everything… 

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to love God when everything is going your way? It’s really easy to love Him when you have plenty of food in your pantry, and plenty of money in the bank. It’s easy to love Him when your loved ones love you back. Loving God is easy when you and your loved ones have your health. It is good to love the Lord your God in these circumstances…

But how do you feel when all hell breaks loose around you? Do you continue to love God when you and your loved ones suffer all sorts of trauma and pain? Do you continue to love the Lord your God when you are despised, rejected and abused? Do you love the Lord your God when your children or your grandchildren have been misused and abused? Do you love Him with all of your inmost being, when someone you love suffers and dies, in spite of all your heartfelt prayers? Shema Beloved! This is the kind of love the Lord commands us to give Him.

Do you set your heart on Him, giving Him all of your love, even though you watch all that you hoped and dreamed for come crashing and burning at your feet? You see, this is what it means to love the Lord with your whole heart, and He will not settle for less. When you’re going through hell, and it seems that all is lost, while people advise you to just curse God and die, do you begin to reflect on the goodness of God? In the midst of your suffering, are you able to remember the many times when God showed Himself strong on your behalf? As the pain threatens to destroy you, do you determine in your will (heart) that you will still love Him… still worship Him… still  serve Him… still praise Him, as the sons of Korah did?

My soul, why are you so downcast?
Why are you groaning inside me?
Hope in God, since I will praise Him again
for being my Savior and God.

~ Psalm 42:11 — CJB ~

Shema Beloved Readers! Hear me! Do you love the Lord your God with all of your passion? For too long, the church has taught that love is a verb, an act of the will and nothing more. The fact is that love is a verb. It is an act of will… but it is so much more than that! You see, the church also taught that love is not a feeling, and that is a lie. Love is indeed a feeling, as well as an act of will. You see, my friends, I choose to love the Lord my God with all my heart, no matter what my circumstances are, and no matter how bad the pain is. 

I choose to love Him by remembering all that He is… He is the One who loved me when no one else did… He is the One who has never left me nor forsaken me… He is the One who died to pay for my sins… He is the One who loved me long before I ever loved Him… He is the One who chose me… He is the One who redeemed me and called me by name… He is the One who suffered for my sake… He is the One who saved me… delivered me… set me free… gives me hope…

You see, as I remember who He is and all that He’s done for me, my love for Elohim is no longer simply an act of will. With each remembrance, I feel a stirring within my soul, and my passion for my Maker is kindled. Shema Beloved Readers! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…

Do you love Him? Beloved Readers, meditate on this passage. There’s so much more to it, that we’ll continue another day, but for now, Shema Beloved Reader! Love the Lord your God with all your heart!

© 2013
Cheryl A. Showers

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ה He (Behold!) Show Me Your Ways

Psalm 119:33-40

ה He

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, And I shall keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, For I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies, And not to covetousness.
37 Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, And revive me in Your way.
38 Establish Your word to Your servant, Who is devoted to fearing You.
39 Turn away my reproach which I dread, For Your judgments are good.
40 Behold, I long for Your precepts; Revive me in Your righteousness.

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Hallelujah! Psalm 119 is a beautiful, powerful psalm, which takes us through the Hebrew alphabet, from beginning to end, as it focuses on the statutes of the Lord. Psalm 119:33-40 begins with the Hebrew letter, ה He, which is the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet and means behold!

Therefore, as we begin to study this portion of scripture, behold! Look and see what God wants to show you in His  word… Let’s begin our study by looking at Psalm 119:33…

ה He

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end.

~ Psalm 119:33 — NKJV ~

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This seems pretty straight forward, but it’s important for us to understand that the Hebrew language is different than the English language. Therefore, for us to truly understand what was being said when the Lord inspired it, let’s look at the Hebrew meaning for Psalm 119:33…

Beloved readers, behold! See what the Lord spoke to His people many years ago, and because His word is living and active, it continues to speak to us. Let’s really begin to dig into this scripture verse and behold what the Lord shows us…

The Hebrew word for “teach” in this scripture is yarah:

  1. to throw, shoot, cast, pour
    1. (Qal)
      1. to throw, cast
      2. to cast, lay, set
      3. to shoot arrows
      4. to throw water, rain
    2. (Niphal) to be shot
    3. (Hiphil)
      1. to throw, cast
      2. to shoot
      3. to point out, show
      4. to direct, teach, instruct
      5. to throw water, rain

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The word “teach” takes on a whole new meaning, when you see what the original Hebrew text was… Behold! Throw, cast, shoot, point out, show, direct, teach, instruct me… In this scripture, the writer is asking the Lord to cast him, shoot him, point out and show him. He’s asking the Lord to direct him, teach him and instruct him. 

Imagine this, as you’re praying to the Lord, you’re telling Him, “Behold! Lord, I’m an arrow in Your hand. Take me, Lord, and place me within Your bow, aim me and shoot me where you want me to go!” 

Do you see it? When we become as an arrow, we relinquish control. We are now at the Lord’s mercy, as He takes us from His quiver, places us on His bow and takes aim. He is the One who directs us, choosing where He will send us flying to. He is the One who pulls us back and shoots us in the direction we are to go. As you can see, this requires complete trust in the Lord, as an arrow does nothing on its own. 

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While in the quiver, the arrow rests quietly with the other arrows, waiting for its Owner to choose it. The arrow is not its own — it belongs to the Archer. Once chosen, the arrow rests in the hand of the Archer. The arrow has no say over where it is shot, or even how or why it is shot. It simply rests in the hand of the Archer, while He aims and points it in the direction it is to go, and then shoots it.

Are you willing to rest in the hands of your Archer? So often, our problems arise when we try too hard to do things, rather than simply resting in the hands of the Master, and allowing Him to aim us and shoot us where He wants us to go.

ה He

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, And I shall keep it to the end.

Psalm 119:33 — NKJV ~

The Hebrew word for “way” in this scripture is derek:

  1. way, road, distance, journey, manner
    1. road, way, path
    2. journey
    3. direction..
    4. manner, habit, way
    5. of course of life (fig.)
    6. of moral character (fig.)

Now, remembering what it means when we say, “Teach me, O Lord,” let’s look at the “way” we are asking Him to teach us. As we rest in the Lord’s hands, we are asking Him to cast, shoot, direct and instruct us in the way, road, distance, journey, manner, path, direction, manner, habit, course of life and course of moral character that we should go. This is powerful. We’re not just asking for direction, we’re asking the Lord to cast us on the journey of our lives. We’re asking to be shot in the manner of our moral character. We’re asking the Lord to show and instruct us in our habits.

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Just think about this… When we ask the Lord to teach us, we’re asking Him to send us in a new direction — on a new way. We’re asking Him to send us on a course of life, to direct us in the way our moral character can be developed. We’re asking the Lord to shoot us toward new habits. It isn’t enough for us to read the scriptures, and then walk away with no change in our lives. We must seriously surrender to the Lord, rest in His hands, and ask Him to send us in the way that will change our moral character and the course of our lives as we develop new habits.

Isn’t it amazing how such a simple scripture can be so life-changing? As you continue to read and study this verse, make it your prayer to your heavenly Father…

ה He

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, And I shall keep it to the end.

Psalm 119:33 — NKJV ~

The Hebrew word for “statutes” is choq:

  1. statute, ordinance, limit, something prescribed, due
    1. prescribed task
    2. prescribed portion
    3. action prescribed (for oneself), resolve
    4. prescribed due
    5. prescribed limit, boundary
    6. enactment, decree, ordinance
      1. specific decree
      2. law in general
    7. enactments, statutes
      1. conditions
      2. enactments
      3. decrees
      4. civil enactments prescribed by God

According to this definition, the statutes we are praying for are our limits, ordinances, prescribed tasks, prescribed portions, the actions prescribed for ourselves, our resolve, boundaries, decrees and enactments prescribed by God… Think about it this way — as we pray this prayer, we are asking the Lord, to choose us from among the other arrows in His quiver, while we rest in His hand. Then, as we rest in His hand, He places us on the bow, aims us, and shoots us on our journey that will change the course of our lives, as our moral character and habits are developed.

But how are these qualities developed? The Lord, casts us to our prescribed boundaries. He sets our limits before us as He casts us toward them so that we may enact His decrees. It is in the course of acting out His decrees that we develop moral character and new habits, thus establishing a new course of life.

ה He

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, And I shall keep it to the end.

Psalm 119:33 — NKJV ~

The Hebrew word for “keep” is natsar:

  1. to guard, watch, watch over, keep
    1. (Qal)
      1. to watch, guard, keep
      2. to preserve, guard from dangers
      3. to keep, observe, guard with fidelity
      4. to guard, keep secret
      5. to be kept close, be blockaded
      6. watchman (participle)

This part gets me so excited. I’ve always thought that “keep” as it is used here simply means to obey, but as I read it according to how the word natsar was intended, I see that its meaning goes much deeper. When I ask the Lord to choose me and cast me to my prescribed limits, so that I may develop a good moral character with new habits that establish the course of my life, according to Psalm 119:33, I then make Him a promise…

ה He

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, And I shall keep it to the end.

Psalm 119:33 — NKJV ~

I not only promise to obey His word, which is vital, but in this instance, the promise I am making is to also watch over His word and guard it. I’m promising to guard His word with fidelity and preserve it. I’m promising the Lord that I will be a watchman for His word, keeping it close and guarding it from danger. 

As I read and study the word of God, something happens within me. As His word takes root within me, and the Lord speaks to my heart, zeal for His word begins to grow, and I find myself fiercely guarding His word from error. I find that it angers me to see people take the Lord’s word out of context or give it a different meaning than what He has clearly inspired its authors to write. I have become a watchman for God’s word.

That is why I write against false teaching and false prophets and teachers. I do it because there is a fire within me for the word of God, and I cannot sit idly by while false teachers take advantage of those who do not know what God’s word truly says. My heart longs to see men, women and children come to the saving grace of Christ. I long to see them saved, healed and delivered from the sin that so easily besets us. I long to see them set free, and it is the TRUTH that sets us free.

Therefore, I must speak the truth in love, expose the lies and also expose the false teachers that many have set on pedestals. For we serve a jealous God, and He alone is worthy of our worship, while some of the men and women who claim to be bible scholars and teachers of the word are charlatans who fleece the flock, and they must be exposed. 

ה He

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, And I shall keep it to the end.

Psalm 119:33 — NKJV ~

Bless the Lord, my beloved readers. Meditate on this word from the Lord today, and commit yourself to asking Holy Spirit to teach you, aim you, shoot you and cast you towards the limits and boundaries that God has decreed for you, so that you too will be a watchman on the wall, guarding the word of God and hiding it in your heart to the end.

© 2013
Cheryl A. Showers

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When Fear and Darkness Come

helpesless8trackscoverHave you ever come to a place in your life, when out of nowhere, fear grabs you and wraps its black tentacles around your heart and your mind? Then, suddenly, as the fear wraps itself around you, like a relentless boa constrictor, squeezing your heart and lungs so that your breathing becomes labored, panic begins to set in, and you are left with butterflies in your stomach, a racing heart, and a muddled mind. Your every instinct tells you to flee. Have you ever been there?

I’ve experience that many times in my life, and it’s a horrible feeling that leaves you feeling as though everything is out of control. When you’re in that place, you feel as though you’re all alone, as though there is no one else who has been there or who could possibly understand. On top of the intense loneliness, you feel like a complete failure, as though you’ve let yourself down, and worse yet — you feel as though you’ve let God down. Have you been there?

That’s why I find such comfort in 1 Kings 19:1-9a:

When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal. 2 So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”

3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.

7 Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

8 So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. 9 There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.

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Are you familiar with the story? Elijah was one of God’s most powerful prophets. He was a strong and mighty man of God, who performed many miracles, signs and wonders in the name of the Lord. As a matter of fact, right before this incident, Elijah had just called fire down from heaven, as the fire of the Lord consumed his offering, proving to the people of Israel and the 400 false prophets of Baal that the Lord is God. Then he commanded the people to seize the 400 false prophets and killed every one of them.

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Now, following such a huge victory, it seems kind of crazy that Elijah would turn tail and run away in fear of his life, just because of the threats of one woman. After all, if the Lord had given him victory over the 400 prophets of Baal, wouldn’t you think He would protect Elijah from one woman?

Still, when the spirit of fear grips you, it blinds you to the truth. That spirit of fear magnifies the perceived danger until it becomes larger than life. It isn’t logical or reasonable. As a matter of fact, everything is distorted and warped, making it difficult to think clearly. Have you been there?

4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

~ 1 Kings 19:4 — NLT ~

Now many people have preached and interpreted this verse as Elijah’s pity party. I too, have been guilty of this same interpretation, until recently, when the Lord brought me to a dark place that I’ve never been to before. As I make my way through this dark place, I’m learning that a lot of my judgments of others have been harsh and unkind.

Let’s spend a few moments looking at things from Elijah’s perspective. The life of a prophet is not an easy one. You see, a prophet loves the Lord passionately, and is filled with zeal for Him, that burns within him/her like a consuming fire.

7 O Lord, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me. 8 For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction,
Because for me the word of the Lord has resulted In reproach and derision all day long. 9 But if I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it.

~ Jeremiah 20:7-9 — NASB ~

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Not only does the prophet love the Lord passionately, he/she also loves the people of God. The prophet would pour his/her heart and soul into proclaiming the word of the Lord. The prophet would long for the people to repent and  turn back to the Lord. He/She would long for their salvation. As a former prison minister, I understand this. When I ministered to those inmates, the word of the Lord burned within me, and my heart’s desire was for the salvation and deliverance of each and every woman I ministered to. When I minister in my church, again, the word of the Lord burns within me and my heart’s desire is for every man, woman and child to know the Almighty and love Him. I love those people I minister to, and I long for them to walk in liberty in Jesus’ name.

Now put yourself in Elijah’s place…

But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with You, torn down Your altars, and killed every one of Your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

~ 1 Kings 19:9b-10 — NLT ~

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Do you really think Elijah was having a pity party? Think about it. His life was being threatened. The people he tried so desperately to lead to repentance and save had not only rejected the Lord, they had also killed the Lord’s prophets. The danger he faced was very real. Not only were his fears real, but he had had enough. He was tired and depressed. He had failed in his mission to lead the people to salvation and repentance. He felt as though he was all alone, and he asked the Lord to take his life, possibly thinking that the God who loved him would be more merciful in his death than the people he had tried to save.

As I said before, my thoughts about Elijah have changed. I find that since I’ve experienced anxiety and depression, I’m less likely to pass judgment on Elijah or anyone else who is experiencing anxiety and depression. It’s really easy to assume that someone is feeling sorry for himself and having a pity party when he/she is depressed. I know, because I’ve accused people that I love, who have suffered from depression of “feeling sorry” for themselves, and I’ve since had to repent. 

Now, let’s look at what happened next…

5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.

7 Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

8 So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God.

~ 1 Kings 19:5-8 — NLT ~

After running for his life, Elijah fell into an exhausted sleep. This is typical behavior for someone suffering from depression, and let’s look at the Lord’s response to Elijah. The Lord sent an angel to give Elijah some food. A person suffering from depression and anxiety often doesn’t eat properly, and knowing this, the Lord provided nourishment for Elijah, and then let him lay down and rest some more. After allowing Elijah to rest some more, the angel of the Lord came to him again and touched him, instructing him to eat some more to sustain him for the journey ahead of him. Apparently this food was supernatural, for it sustained Elijah, giving him enough strength to travel for forty days to Mount Sinai.

If Elijah had merely been having a “pity party” or was “feeling sorry” for himself, would the Lord have treated him so gently and compassionately? I don’t think so. I remember the Lord’s response to Jonah, another of His prophets, who was feeling sorry for himself, because a plant died. Unlike His gentle and compassionate response to Elijah, the Lord rebuked Jonah for his heartlessness. 

Therefore, my beloved readers, I urge you to read the rest of this chapter, and take note of the Lord’s gracious treatment of Elijah, especially where the Lord spoke to him in a still small voice. This is not gospel, it is merely my conjecture, but I find it interesting that the Lord chose to speak to the depressed and frightened prophet in a still small voice, rather than thundering at him. Could it be that the Lord knew the depressed prophet wouldn’t have been able to handle the powerful, thunderous blast of His voice, and so, He chose to speak to Him in a gentle whisper? What a merciful and compassionate God we serve. 

As I read this story, I draw strength, knowing that the Lord understands depression. He understands fear and anxiety, and rather than beating a person up when they’re already in the depths of despair, He shows us how to respond to someone suffering from depression…

  • Encourage the person to rest
  • Encourage the person to eat and take care of him/herself
  • Speak to the person with gentleness and compassion
  • Encourage the person to seek his/her healing from the Lord, who truly does care
  • Let the depressed/anxious person know that he/she is not alone
  • Be a friend and helpmate to the person suffering depression, and don’t judge them harshly

My beloved readers, if any of you are suffering from depression and/or anxiety, be encouraged. The Lord doesn’t think you’re just “feeling sorry” for yourself, and He doesn’t think you’re having a “pity party”. He understands, and He knows how to help you, just as He knew how to help Elijah. 

© 2013
Cheryl A. Showers