Bearing God’s Image and Likeness

Bearing God’s Image and Likeness

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים נַֽעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ וְיִרְדּוּ בִדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעֹוף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל־הָאָרֶץ וּבְכָל־הָרֶמֶשׂ הָֽרֹמֵשׂ עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

“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

zac durant
Photo courtesy of Zac Durant on Unsplash

In what way are we made in God’s image, after His likeness?

The word in Hebrew for image is צֶלֶם (tselem). 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.

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Hebrew Word of the Week

Hebrew Word of the Week

תוֹם – Seeing Through the Lens of Integrity

through the lens of integrity
Seeing through the lens of integrity

“Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: “This is what the Lord commands: When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.” Numbers 30:1-2

Today I asked my husband for a word to explore in Hebrew. His answer was, “integrity.” If I were to choose a word to sum up his character, integrity would fit the bill. So this one is for him.

According to Wikipedia, integrity is the basing of one’s actions on an internally consistent framework of principles.

Our Hebrew word is תוֹם. It is pronounced tome. In the Jewish mindset, integrity is linked to wholeness and perfection.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg posits the following: Imagine you’re successful, rich and famous. You’re on vacation with friends when suddenly terrorists burst into your room, hold a gun to your head and say: “Tell us where your friends are and we’ll release you safely. Otherwise we’ll kill you.”

What do you do?

In Jewish thought, there are three fundamental principles upon which the world stands. They are truth (emet in Hebrew), justice (tzedek) and peace (shalom).

The Talmud tells us: “The signature of the Holy one, blessed be He, is truth.” So together, the three great principles of Judaism come together to form integrity.

But what happens when we fail our integrity? We make a vow (or promise or commitment) to something or someone, but we don’t carry through. Real life interferes, and we fall short of what we had planned. God is very serious about vows, as the book of Numbers shows us.

Remember the story of the Isra’elites right after they’ve defeated Ai and destroyed the city? Some men from a neighboring tribe deceive Joshua and the elders by feigning having come from a foreign country and asking them to enter into a covenant so that the army of Isra’el won’t kill them. Of course, it turns out that although God had told Joshua not to make a covenant with the people who lived in the land, He nevertheless considers their vow made in His name to be valid. The “foreigners” end up as slaves to the Isra’elites (which for them is assuredly better than the death of their nation).

God expects total integrity in our walk. But He also knows our human frailty and forgives. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

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UIOF Bible Study: Week 22

UIOF Bible Study: Week 22

Embracing Your Potential: Spiritual Growth—Transformation

photo by Faith Ozdemir
Photo courtesy of Faith Ozdemir on Unsplash

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” — Acts 4:13

Oh, grow up!

My daughter sucked her thumb until she was seven years old. Once we offered to buy her a favorite doll if she would quit sucking her thumb for one month. She did. We bought her the doll and she immediately went back to sucking her thumb. 

Physical growth happens and eventually we must give up childish things to move on with life. Our old clothes don’t fit, our toys don’t amuse, and even our tastes change. Spiritual growth also comes at the expense of childish things.

Giving up things we are comfortable with is hard, but to grow spiritually things have to change. And we must count the cost. Are you ready to move out of your comfort zone and start doing only those things God calls you to?

Complete self-denial is how we follow Jesus. If we are to become disciples, we have to be willing to completely surrender to Jesus. This means ALL of ourselves. Those things you cling to must be laid down so you can be transformed.

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UIOF Week 21, Bearing Fruit

UIOF Week 21, Bearing Fruit

rohit-tandon
Photo Courtesy of Rohit Tandon on Unsplash

“I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” — John 15:5

Stop Thinking Like the World

Are you being transformed? Transformation is what happens to a person when she gives her attention to something that changes her thinking. The word transformation means “a thorough or dramatic change.” 

So what is transforming your thoughts, words, and actions?

2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. When our thoughts are obedient to Jesus’ words, we are not only transformed, but we begin to bear fruit by causing a transformation in others.

If you want to see disciples for Christ on your watch, you need to begin with your own thoughts.

Since Jesus’ purpose was to destroy the works of the enemy (1 John 3:8) and to save every person who calls upon His Name (Romans 10:13), we must be very careful to continue to be attached to the vine. As soon as we begin giving our time and attention to the world more than to the Light of the world, we begin the transformation that will conform us to the world’s way of thinking and viewing everything. We will begin following our prince. And who is the prince of the world? John 12:31 tells us that it is Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44) and the world of unbelievers are in bondage to Satan (Ephesians 2:2) and speak his lies.

Not all of the world’s ideas are wrong. However, a half-truth is a total lie. So we must ask the Lord our God to shine His Light into every facet of our being to expose those things that have been tainted by the world so that they can be replaced by the Lord’s thoughts about what is happening around us. Put on “the mind of Christ” and go out and bear much fruit for the Kingdom of our Almighty God!

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Hebrew WOW: שְׁאוֹל

Hebrew WOW: שְׁאוֹל

A Jewish Perspective on Sheol

Did Jews in the time of Yeshua believe in hell?

Do you? 

Ancient thought about sheol (hell) was quite different from Western (Christian) thought, yet Yeshua was a Jew. What did He think?

שְׁאוֹל

(Sheol)

sheol, underworld, grave, hell, pit

the underworld

Sheol-the OT designation for the abode of the dead

place of no return

without praise of God

wicked sent there for punishment

righteous not abandoned to it

of the place of exile (fig)

of extreme degradation in sin

The word sheol, or שְׁאוֹל, in ancient thought meant the world where bad people, or all people, or maybe only some people went after they died. There were so many different thoughts on what happened when you died that you could write a whole book on that subject alone. It has been described as a deep, dark region, as a pit, and as “the Land of Forgetfulness.” Human beings after death, they thought, went to a netherworld called Sheol, cut off from God and man, but still “alive” in some shadowy existence. However, there is no judgment, whether reward or punishment there.

Pessimism was the rule of the day when it came to life after death. Most Jews were “here-and-now” focused and all people came to the same end.

After the destruction of the First Temple, however, the prophets began to speak with more hope about the future.

When the Second Temple was destroyed in 70AD, a theological crisis occurred. It was one thing to claim as the rabbis did—when the Lord’s sanctuary was destroyed and His people were scattered—mip’nei hataeinu, “because of our sins” but it was very difficult to give reasons that good, pious, individual  Jews should suffer also.

Rabbi Ya’akov said: This world is compared to an ante-chamber that leads to Olam HaBa, (the World-to-Come).” In fact, some rabbis taught that the righteous suffered in this world so that their reward in the next world would be that much greater.

So what did Yeshua teach about sheol?

In the Sermon on the Mount where Yeshua’s message was about love, He emphasized that those who were not more righteous than the Pharisees would never enter heaven (Matthew 5:20). He warned that unrepentant sinners would face the fires of sheol. At the end of His Sermon, the kingdom of God and the horrors of sheol are contrasted. Sheol is described as a place of destruction, where the broad road leads. Even professing to know the Messiah, if one continues in sin, won’t save you from sheol. Everyone who does not find the 

“narrow way” will end up in sheol. He compares the lives of the wicked to those who build their houses upon sand.

So, in essence, we know three things about sheol from the teaching of the first century Jews and from the Messiah Himself:

1. Sheol is the place for deserved punishment, comprises real suffering, and is eternal.

2. Sheol is the place of destruction, likened to death, second death, ruin, and loss.

3. Sheol is the place of banishment, where unbelievers actually realize what they are missing—their purpose in life and in life eternal: to love and glorify God.