“The LORD bless you and keep you: The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you: The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26 RSV)
To understand this very special blessing, for which God Himself chose the wording, we must look at the language it was written in. We must take on the mindset of the Ancient Hebrew people and see the meaning of the words from their viewpoint. And when we do, you will see that English doesn’t come even close to the magnificence of this amazing grace.
So from an Hebraic perspective, it would be better translated:
YHVH will kneel before you,* giving you gifts, and He will guard you, hedging you about with His protection. YHVH will illuminate you with the entirety of His being, bringing order where disorder was, and He will be your comfort and provide for all your needs.YHVH will lift up His wholeness of being upon you and He will set in place everything to make you whole and complete. * figuratively speaking
In our weekly Havdalah meeting, our Messianic congregation receives the Aaronic blessing as given by one of our pastors or our cantor/rabbi. This is allowed because Yeshua has made us a kingdom of priests and kings to His Father (Revelation 1:6). Therefore, not only can we receive the blessing, but as priests we can speak it over others as well.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26
In what way are we made in God’s image, after His likeness?
The word in Hebrew for image is צֶלֶם (tse-lem). It is from an unused root meaning “to shade.” Figuratively, it means a representative figure. We are to represent Him on this Earth. In the Ancient Near East in Moses’ time (remember he wrote the Torah which contains this verse), an image was believed to bear the essence of the thing it represented. We are to bear God’s essence! If you live in Texas, as I do, you are meant to carry His essence in Texas. If you live in Singapore, you are meant to carry it in Singapore.
God is not repeating Himself when He says “after our likeness.” That’s a different word: דְּמוּת (de-muth). It means—in some way—a similitude. Another word for similitude or likeness is equivalence. Obviously, we are not equal to God in every respect, but if you look at the very next words, you can see how we are equivalent: we have dominion. By giving us dominion over the earth, we have become like God. He has total dominion, but we have limited dominion.
We resemble God in the way that the moon resembles the sun. The moon is a light in the sky because the sun is shining. We have dominion, but it is a reflected dominion, the way the moon is a reflected light. Without the sun, the moon would be just a dead rock whirling around in space. Without God, our dominion would have no foundation to draw upon.
Our Hebrew word for today is קֹרְבָּן (korban), which occurs in the Bible with the following translations: offering (68x), oblation (12x), offered (1x), sacrifice (1x).
The korban was presented as a remedy for the guilt of sin. But sin itself has many different translations. It occurs 448 times in 389 verses in the KJV. Translated as trespass, it occurs 82 times in 73 verses. Transgression occurs 51 times in 50 verses, iniquity occurs 278 times in 262 verses.
Then there are offerings, קָרְבָּן. Although translated as a sacrificial present, there was an elaborate system of offerings to deal with sin in the Hebrew scriptures, but just one in the New Testament. That one, of course, was the ultimate sacrificial offering made by God Himself, in the person of Yeshua ben haElohim (Jesus the Son of God).
Let’s look first at the differences among the translations for sin.
The result of continuous, unrepentant sin is a reprobate mind. Here is how reprobate is defined:
a depraved, unprincipled, or wicked person: a drunken reprobate.
a person rejected by God and beyond hope of salvation.
morally depraved; unprincipled; bad.
rejected by God and beyond hope of salvation.
verb (used with object), rep·ro·bat·ed, rep·ro·bat·ing.
to disapprove, condemn, or censure.
(of God) to reject (a person), as for sin; exclude from the number of the elect or from salvation.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Now let’s look at the different kinds of offerings.
Colossians 1:19– 20
In Him, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.
Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All (Hebrews 10:1-10)
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’”a]
First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
In fact, we live in a world gone so wrong that it would be easy to agree with the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland who said everyone in Wonderland was mad.
Things seem to be falling apart around us. From terrorist attacks like 9/11 to school shootings, life in America seems more dangerous by the day. Turn on any news channel, pick up a newspaper, or read a blog post and you’re sure to find madmen running amok.
My daughter and her family are moving today from a leased apartment because in the seven months they have lived there, they’ve
experienced shootings twice. The first time was a blazing gun battle in the parking lot outside her window. It was witnessed by two of her three children. The second was just last night. A drive-by shooting left TEN bullet holes in the apartment next to theirs. Had the shooter aimed at her apartment instead, their son would be dead today.
Their oldest daughter (she’ll be seventeen in about a month) was so traumatized by the first incident that she was afraid to go to school. Afraid to eat in the cafeteria, because so many kids congregate there that it would be the logical place for a bad person with a gun to start shooting. She kept to herself in the library.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here.
From a purely personal viewpoint, when your frame of reference involves school shootings and the city you live in has the dubious distinction to have a murder rate of 12.5 per 100,000, you can easily get paralyzed by fear. So while we have to be aware of the violence around us, it is the extraordinary person who can be relaxed inside.
Are you that one?
Public Domain Image
Photo courtesy of Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash
I am. That’s because I have the assurance that nothing is going to happen to me that my God does not allow. And not even the bullet fired at me close range can take my life one second before God calls me home.
How did I gain such peace in the midst of turmoil? By hiding God’s word in my heart. In Psalm 119 the writer tells God he has hidden His word in his heart so that he wouldn’t sin against God. But there are other benefits to knowing Scripture.
One such benefit is relegating fear to hell where it belongs.
That’s why I wrote a devotional about how to speak to the devil when he fills your mind with fearful thoughts.
It’s a weekly devotional and contains 52 reasons why you do not have to be afraid even though life around you seems really dangerous. Since you’re reading this blog, it is reasonable to assume you live in a modern country with access to a Bible. If you don’t have one, contact me and I’ll be sure to get one in your hands.
For weeks now, I have been struggling with light sensitivity.
Yes, I have very blue eyes and a bad habit of squinting against the light instead of putting on my sunglasses. Some days, I feel like I need them even indoors!
My doctor tells me that most people in Texas—where I live—have vitamin D3 deficiency. That’s crazy, when we know that only sunlight produces that vitamin in our bodies. You can get small amounts from eating things like mushrooms, but not nearly as much as your body needs. With the abundance of sunlight in Texas, you’d think we’d be the least likely people to develop this deficiency.
In a recent study at Stanford University, researchers found that women who spend at least 30-45 minutes in the sun everyday live longer and have less frequent breast cancers. Yet we’ve been told over and again to avoid the sun! And so we ask, what are we to do? (I’ll come back to that in a minute.)
Of even graver concern is the lack of spiritual light.
If avoiding the sun can cause physical problems in our bodies, imagine how avoiding God’s light can affect our spirits!
Consider the case of the New Testament Apostle Paul. Even though he wrote most of the New Testament, he had not always been a champion of the faith. Indeed, he had letters from the religious authorities to put in jail those who were following the Way. He was on the road to Damascus to do just that when something startling happened.
“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do (Acts9:3-6).”
Blinded by the light, his whole sense of who he was and who God was, was challenged. He had to be led into the city because he was totally blind.
But blind to what?
Saul was the young Pharisee who held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He was passionate for what he saw as the only way to worship God. But the Pharisees had put so many stumbling blocks in the way of the faithful that no one could be assured of not offending them.
However, God was offended by the Pharisees!
He knew that no one could follow the law perfectly. Not even pious Saul. So He enacted the solution He had prepared even before the beginning of time itself. He sent Jesus into the world, to live the life we should have lived. He did that perfectly. Then, He took on himself the penalty for every sin ever committed, past, present and even future. He paid the penalty and bought our freedom and forgiveness.
He became the light.
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).”
When Jesus showed people the way, those who believed Him still struggled with believing. At one point, the boldest Apostle in the group, Simon Peter, denied he even knew Jesus.
Much later, when the beloved apostle, John, wrote in his letters, he made it abundantly clear who the light is.
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:5-9).”
This may be my favorite verse in the whole Bible. I love the light, because that’s where Jesus is.
But it is definitely not always easy.
I suffer from chronic depression. If you think Christians shouldn’t have depression, then you must also think they shouldn’t have diabetes, or heart disease, or any of a plethora of illnesses that are a result of the fall in the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, until Jesus returns and make all things new, we live in a fallen and decaying world. One day soon, He will return and restore everything to the way He made it in the beginning, before the fall. (For more information on being a Christian with mental illness, see Amy Simpson’s Blog. You can also read my testimony about depression here.)
We have a worthy adversary—the devil. The word tells us that
“he goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8.).”
Do you know what that means? It means he is LOUD! He is ROARING his message of lies to us. But he is also a liar from the beginning and the father of lies (John 8:44).
The enemy roars his lies.
In our ears, in the mirror, in our jobs and our families and even in our churches. That is why it is crucial that we stay in the light. When the light is shining, nothing is hidden. If we believe the lies the enemy roars at us (I’m unloveable; I’m a failure; I’m not pretty; I can’t do anything right.) then we are committing Peter’s sin.
We’re denying that we know Jesus Christ.
I’ve just come through one of the worst depressive episodes I’ve ever experienced. I tried walking backwards in the light, but all I saw were the shadows that I, myself, was casting. I heard the enemy’s lies, and I listened. Fortunately, I have people around me who saw what was happening and rushed to my aid.
Now I’m wearing an elastic band around my wrist. It says “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Even though it’s a good reminder, that’s not why I’m wearing it. Every time I hear the enemy’s lies in my mind, I snap that plastic band. Then I counter the lie with the truth of Jesus. I am loved. I am succeeding in my adventure with God. I’m beautiful because God says I am. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
One day soon I’m going to publish my testimony on this website. It’s kind of long, so it will be on a page of its own and you’ll never have to look there if you don’t want to. It isn’t a pretty story, but it is a story of victory!
So how do we balance our need for light?
In the physical, we need 30-45 minutes in the sun every day to produce enough vitamin D3. But NEVER without sunscreen! And I know it’s hot and we would rather sit in the air-conditioned room than walk around the block in the heat of the day. But doing something good for yourself means you’re doing something good for the people you love, too.