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Ah!  It has been a long time since I had a Friday free to do one of these.  Te recap what we learned last year, I’m going to review the ten MIQVEH verses and use my engineering powers to rearrange and organize the verses to draw out additional meaning and see if we see a pattern.

To review, MIQVEH means “hope”.  It can mean something waited for but it often refers to a collection or gathering of things.  It is used to refer to bodies of water (the ocean, reservoirs, springs), possibly a drove of horses, a good future, and God Himself.  A key word that ties all these verses together is “SOURCE”; gatherings form sources of hope that we depend on.  We may conclude that the chief purpose of the word MIQVEH is to present God as the One, Unified Source of our hope.

The Father of Hope.

Jeremiah 50:7 presents God as the Hope of Israel and identifies Him as the Source of Israel’s rest.  This “rest” is associated with the chief person of the Trinity, our Heavenly Father, Who prepared a rest for us all to enter by faith in His Son.  We can link this verse to Genesis 1:10, the very first instance of MIQVEH, to see that just as the oceans were gathered into a MIQVEH that is deep and powerful, God is our unsearchable and incomprehensible “Gathering” or Source of Hope.  It is to the Father that we look as the paramount Source of Hope ; the only means we have of approaching Him is through His Son.

The Son of Hope

(Keeping in mind that “Son” in this sense doesn’t mean One who is born/created, but One who is an exact representation, carries out Another’s wishes, and has an inheritance.)  Jeremiah 14:8 presents God as the Hope of Israel and identifies him as Israel’s Savior.  We can link this verse to 1 Chronicles 2:15 that shows we cannot gather life together to hold onto it.  Jesus, Messiah or Christ, is the Second Person of the Trinity; as the Savior, He is our source of Eternal life and eternal hope.  He saves us from death and gives us the ability to endure beyond the grave.  He is the only Way available to Mankind to not only hold onto life, but have it in abundance.

The Spirit of Hope

Jeremiah 17:13 presents God as the Hope of Israel and its source of Living Water.  We can link this verse to Leviticus 11:36 which says that a spring or cistern cannot become polluted by an unclean carcass.  As we see Jesus performing miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit, He touched “unclean” lepers and was not contaminated by them.  He taught and lived with sinners and did not become one of them.  The Holy Spirit is called “Holy” because He is separate from every form of uncleanness and darkness; like the cistern in Leviticus 11:36, He cannot be made dirty.  He is in direct contradiction to the concept of “Yin and Yang”; in Him there is no darkness at all.

The Holy Spirit is the Source of living waters in the New Testament that resulted in miraculous outpourings and supernatural giftings of the earliest Christians (and this still continues to this day).  Jesus is the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit: Jesus is the One who gives the Holy Spirit to us.  We are born in the Spirit when we first profess faith in Jesus; the Spirit comes to dwell within us to change us to be like Jesus.  We are baptized in the Holy Spirit by Jesus when we are fully committed to Christ, are open to His work through us, and ask persistently for more of His power in our lives; as a result, the Spirit who is already in us from our conversion flows OUT of us more evidently and empowers us to be a potent cleansing force in a perverted and hopeless world.

Returning to the Source

Ezra 10:2 underscored our need to repent of our tendency to “muddy the waters” of our hope by mixing our faith in God with faith in other things.  The Jews had to put away the sources of syncretism in their community; the wives taken from pagan cultures around them.  In the same way, when we realize we have fallen short of declaring God to be our ONLY Source of hope, we need to put away all the influences that undermine dependence on our MIQVEH, God.  Many TV shows make it seem OK to be a Christian and yet consult with the occult, practice premarital cohabitation, or believe that there are many ways to God.  If we want the living waters of Hope to flow freely through us, we must unite with other believers in eschewing relativistic ideas in favor of putting all our eggs in one basket, one truth, one way, one MIQVEH.  Our hope is in God alone; the only way to Him is through Christ who gives us His HOLY Spirit!

Exodus 7:19 shows us that we cannot expect God’s blessing if we are actively oppressing other people.  Even if we believe we adhering to godly principles of resource management, those resources will become tainted if we are practicing injustice.  The Egyptians had reservoirs as a result of Joseph’s management of Egyptian domestic affairs; 400 years later those reservoirs turned to blood because of the enslavement and mistreatment of the Hebrew people (the Israelites).  If we want to ensure that our hope is not in vain, we need to represent the cause of the needy and make sure we are not mistreating one another.  To preserve hope, we must ask God for help to fight injustice.

Separating from the Source

1 Kings 10:28 and 2 Chronicles 1:16–identical passages, whether or not they are truly MIQVEH or QAVAH verses–demonstrate that material excess and military might are false sources of hope.  In fact, they are often connected with the consequences of injustice that Exodus 7:19 warns us about.  As we grow closer to the end of this world, the Bible makes it clear that more and more people are going to stop relying on God to make Man moral and instead rely on government, eventually global government.  Wherever there is military and material excess/disparity, there is always corruption and an abuse of power.

Jesus warned us against the deceitfulness of riches; this doesn’t mean that it is wrong to be rich, but that we are often misled to put our hope in riches.  Solomon, for all his wealth and human wisdom, his peace treaties and arms dealing, could not protect himself from being corrupted by lesser, inferior cultures whose gods were not gods at all.  It seems the only thing that Solomon believed in, at the end, was himself.  This is the ultimate death to hope that we are experiencing in the Post-Modern Age: having eschewed any real commitment to a confirmed deity, or any unique truth, we are “an end in ourselves” and “live to get rich or die trying”.  It seems to work if we’re one of the “haves”, but if we are one of the “have nots” we get resentful and think others are holding out on us; we don’t have anything else but money to hope in and don’t want to be treated as inferior. Our anxiety confirms that far from making humanity fair, post-modernism only makes big fish and little fish; no one wants to be the little fish.

Summary

If we trust in God, it doesn’t matter if we are rich or poor; we already have the most valuable possession, True Hope.  Such hope never disappoints, because we are convinced God loves us and will take care of us!  He is the Source of our assurance for the future, our passion for everyday life, and our motivation to reach out to others to share the hope we have.  He is deep and limitless, powerful and trenchant, compassionate and satisfying.  Where else would we want to go?

What is your MIQVEH?  Where are your hopes and dreams gathered? I challenge you to pray this prayer:

Father God, please reveal to me what I have been depending on.  Help me to put all my hope in You; take away my fears, my tendency to rely on myself, and any deceived notions I have about where my security lies.  You are my deep source of hope; I declare you to be my MIQVEH today.  Please send me Your Holy Spirit so I can spread your hope to others.  In the name of Your Son, Jesus, I ask.  Amen.

If you enjoyed this week’s Faith Fridays post, please share using one of the many options below.  Thanks!

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Read on to see how Jesus’ hope will preserve your life!

As my pastor says, “we’re rounding third and coming home”!  Here is our second-to-last MIQVEH verse:

O Lord, the hope (MIQVEH) of Israel,
    all who turn away from you will be disgraced.
They will be buried in the dust of the earth,
    for they have abandoned the Lord, the fountain of living water.

Jeremiah 17:13 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

I last discussed this verse in my first MIQVEH post, One Hope.  Today I want to focus on one word: living.  Jeremiah, in the middle of a national drought, describes God as a fountain of living water.  Jesus described Himself as living water in a time of spiritual drought.  What’s the deal with “living”?  Why bring it up?  If God exists at all, then He must be alive… but what is meant by “living water”?

The significance of “living” is that it means “life-giving” as well as “eternal”.  God, our Source of Hope, is also the source of life that is not only immune to physical death but insuppressible by the decay around us.  Jesus said of this life:

I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep…My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

John 10:7, 10b New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Rich and satisfying.  Does that describe your life?  It is interesting that Jesus spoke these words in the hearing of the Apostles, who later wrote them down for our benefit.  The Apostles were all persecuted for their faith and suffered for their belief in Jesus as “The Way”.  It is easy to think our lives are rich and satisfying when everything is going well, or reasonably well, but what about when tragedy or persecution hits?  Is your life rich and satisfying even in times of isolation or waiting?

Hope is all about waiting for what we don’t have yet.  How can we enjoy a rich and satisfying life when it is marked by the absence of what we are hoping for?  Waiting for healing, a baby, a relationship, justice, or attention can distract us even from the richest aspects of our lives.  The answer to all those deep-felt hopes is a LIVING Hope:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1:3-5 English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

The “living hope” that is available to all of us–the inheritance God has planned for us–comes through the power of Jesus’ resurrection.  Did you know that the same power that rose Jesus from the dead on Easter Sunday can help to bring life to those who follow Him?  Not just eternal life, but authority to live this life, imperfect as it is, to the full.  The Hope that Jesus brings us helps us to keep trusting in His goodness, even while we are waiting for the things we are hoping for.

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

Philippians 3:10-11 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
    while I am here in the land of the living.

Psalm 23:17 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Waiting for our hopes to be fulfilled by God’s mighty power is a form of suffering!  It’s while we are waiting that our selfish ambitions and limited plans die.  If you feel like you are dying while you are waiting, be encouraged!  If you are determined to know Christ and “suffer” for Him, you will experience His resurrection power as He brings His hope to life in you.

If you enjoyed this Faith Fridays post, please share it using one of the many options below.  Thanks!

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Word-up Wednesdays are all about sharing a “word” from an external source that pertains to making right choices in Faith, Family, Food or Fun.  Today’s word-up is: Get your Word on!

The Bible is one of the best resources for advice on all four F’s and is a source of hope for many.  It isn’t a judgmental, hypocritical, ancient book!  It has erotic love poetry, vibrant history, emotional prophecy, comforting promises, principles for living a blessed life, and warnings about unseen dangers.  More importantly, it comes from the God Who gave us the capacity for Faith and Fun and Who blesses us with Food and Family.

Since Thanksgiving is coming up, why not get into the very book that instigated both the Pilgrim’s dinner at Plymouth Rock and the Thanksgiving proclamation by Abraham Lincoln?  You may discover that you have one more thing to be thankful for 🙂

One of the pastors at my church (Jeremy Godwin) has written several how-tos that should make Bible-reading more interesting and “organic” (I love organic things, don’t you?).  I’ve put a couple of my own comments on his relatively short posts: I’d love to see some of yours there too.  Here are some direct links to Pastor Jeremy’s “Beyond Just Reading” series:

Beyond Just Reading: Round 1 (Slow Reading with Strange Questions)

Beyond Just Reading: Round 2 (Exhaust a Scripture)

Beyond Just Reading: Round 3 (Exhaust a Topic)

Beyond Just Reading: Round 4 (Bio of a Builder)

Beyond Just Reading: Round 5 (Fact Check a Preacher)

Helping of HopeRight choice: Get your “Word-on” in the way that suits your personality and learning style best: read the original Hope resource, the Bible!  (I hope you’ll follow Jeremy Godwin’s blog too: he has a lot of great stuff about relationships and communication too).  Bright future: a closer awareness of the One who wants the best for your Faith, Family, Food, and Fun.  His “Word” (the Bible) will show you how to receive blessings in each of those F’s as you draw closer to Him by spending time reading His Love Letter to YOU.

If you enjoyed this Word-up Wednesday post, please share using one of the many options below.  Thanks!

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Learn how we can work together to protect Hope!

This is the last MIQVEH reference in the Bible that we have yet to cover.  It is probably going to be the toughest to read, given the culture of tolerance that we have today.  I hope it challenges you to see an alternative way of thinking about life that is in direct opposition to modern priorities.  The question is, which way of thinking will ultimately prove to be right?

Our MIQVEH verse today is found in the book of Ezra.  The Jews were returning to their homeland after being forced into Babylonian exile for seventy years.  Their temple had been destroyed as well as the walls of their beloved city, Jerusalem.  When they returned to their homeland, the Jews found it occupied by people groups who actively persecuted them and tried to defeat any attempt at rebuilding.  After 16 years the temple was rebuilt, but the city walls lay in ruins.

Ezra was an excellent administrator, scribe, and priest who worked for Cyrus the Great as a cupbearer.  Not only did Ezra use his influence with Cyrus of Persia to fund and support the rebuilding of the Temple, but he also taught God’s Word to the Jews as the foundational basis for true worship.  Ezra led the people in a very personal way by openly repenting of his sin; this encouraged the people to admit how they had fallen short of God’s blessing.  They were engaging in the very activities that had led to their previous exile!

Specifically, in the process of returning to Judea from exile, many Jewish men had intermarried with women from pagan cultures that blended worship of the Lord with worship for their local deities.  Since the time of Solomon this practice of intermarriage had caused Israel to give in to a form of idolatry that progressed so far in its perversion (sexually and spiritually), it even disgusted the pagan nations who had helped to inspire it.

The purpose of the slaughter, exile, and dispersion of the children of Israel was to ensure they would never return to idolatry again.  Never.  Now that costly purification was being jeopardized by the very practice that had necessitated it.  This brings us to our MIQVEH verse:

Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, a descendant of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God, for we have married these pagan women of the land. But in spite of this there is hope [MIQVEH] for Israel.

Ezra 10:2 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

MIQVEH means a collection or gathering; in that sense it often talks about the source or substance of our hopes, the place in which our hopes are gathered or focused.  Shecaniah asserted that even though many Jews had sinned by mixing with local pagan peoples, there was still a collection, a gathering for Israel.  You see, after Ezra’s instruction and personal example of repentance, the Jews were all of one mind.  They were already painfully aware of the destruction that came to their culture from absorbing the belief systems and practices of other cultures; they had just been released from subservience to a culture that thrived on religious syncretism and actively suppressed dissenting cultural identities.  In contrast, the Jews’ former and present freedom was based on following one God with one set of principles.  Separated from the confusion of a pagan culture and strengthened with renewed cultural identity, the Jews were in a position for “Collective Hope”; they acted unanimously, having learned from past mistakes, in order to protect their future and decided to divorce their pagan wives (some of whom had children).

Before we get on our high horses (which would be hypocritical, given the 50% divorce rate we see today) and condemn the Jews, realize that these pagan women did not become proselytes of Judaism.  A complete listing of men who married pagan wives is given in Ezra chapter 10.  Out of thousands of exiles, only ~110 men had married pagan women; not all of them had children.   The pagan wives and the children returned to their original people groups; no one was killed or dropped off in the desert.  Notice how there is no record of even one woman saying she would change her belief system because she wanted to stay married to her husband. These women had no intention of submitting solely to God of the Jews; they were more than happy, however, to integrate Him into their system of deities.

Isn’t that so like today?  Few have a problem with Jesus, as long as He is one of many ways to God.  The second we assert His own words that no one can go to the Father except through Him, we are labeled intolerant, bigots, and a host of all sorts of scornful remarks.  It is not only that Christians are intolerant of other belief systems, but that other belief systems are intolerant of the Bible’s claims to absolute truth.  There is no way to blend the Jesus of the Bible with the leaders and systems of other religions, not without drastically reinventing Him.  Christianity is the only belief system in which God does all the work: we are helpless to earn salvation and must receive it by faith in Him alone.  Anything we do beyond that point is supposed to be by divine empowerment, not human effort.  All other systems are based on human works.  There is no way to blend belief systems and honor the Christian principle of faith in Jesus alone.

Similar to the Jews’ experience in a syncretic, pagan culture, Christians are increasingly under seige for not submitting to “progressive”, cultural norms of tolerance and acceptance.  We are expected to abandon our cultural identity to assimilate with the current ethos: we are supposed to submit our interpretation of worship and our beliefs to the latest “group think”, professional and expert opinion, and government agenda; none of which is based on long-term or absolute truth, none of which can defend or protect us if it proves to be incorrect.  It’s the “lemmings approach” to legitimacy!  What Christians really need, like the Jews returning from exile, is Collective Hope, rooted in a strong identity guarded from external, ideological influence.  We need to guard our hearts and minds jealously, rigorously seek out sinful influences personally and collectively, and do our best to remove those influences through Jesus’ prescribed methods of church discipline (giving fellow believers a chance to repent, or be cast out of fellowship).

So what does it mean to be a Christian?  What is Christian identity? The term Christian is, for the time being, a popular one.  There are even terrorists who claim to be Christian even though they do not read the Bible, go to church, or believe anything that Jesus taught to be true (typically they are agnostics who believe they have invented a better means of achieving “Christian” ideals).  I think there are several reasons people claim to be Christian even though they are not followers of Jesus:

  • HERITAGE.  Sometimes this is a go-with-the-flow decision because previous generations were churchgoers or identified themselves with Christianity in some way; we may follow along thoughtlessly or intentionally, not wishing to disappoint.  This is a personal Christian heritage, but not personal faith.  At other times, it is a recognition that our way of thinking is very much influenced by Christian ideals even if we do not believe them to be absolutely true.  For example, the Bible has significantly influenced our language and American culture: phrases like “a house divided against itself cannot stand”, which Abraham Lincoln used in a speech against slavery, come from the Bible and we agree with those ideas without acknowledging the entire Bible to be absolutely true.  This is a cultural Christian heritage, but not personal faith in Jesus.
  • LEGITIMACY.  This is inherently more dangerous as it tends to distort the general public’s perspective on what Christianity actually is.  Because of the Bible’s renown and deserved reputable status, many groups wish to attach themselves to Christianity by claiming the Bible in some way supports (or does not prohibit) their viewpoint or practices. For example, cults of Christianity will invent their own Bible versions that purposefully change words to undermine the divinity of Jesus, or downplay the Bible’s definition of sinful practices.  Adherents of these cults want to be considered Christians to gain acceptance in the religious community, but they aren’t willing to acknowledge that they are significantly deviating from essential doctrines and practices.  This is an ideological legitimacy; it often results in novel reinterpretations or alterations of so-called “outdated” Biblical verses to justify a position.   Others engage in lifestyles that are explicitly prohibited in the Bible, such as homosexuality, pre-marital cohabitation, and abortion, usually with the excuse that the Bible (written over two thousand years ago in completely different languages) doesn’t use the exact terminology “gay”, “abortion”, or “pre-marital sex”.  The insistence that these anti-biblical lifestyles should be legitimized by mainstream Christianity is contradictory and ulteriorly motivated; the ultimate goal seems to be suppressing what the Bible says about popular lifestyles because it is considered offensive or “unloving”.   With freedom of religion, there is no reason to make an already existing religion anything it is not: if one wants to practice these lifestyles, he should invent his own religion before insisting another change to accept his viewpoint.  This is a bid for personal legitimacy; its primary purpose is to silence personal conviction or feelings of condemnation by asserting oneself as Christian out of a desire for acceptance and belonging, even though the basic tenets of Christianity have been rejected by the individual.
  • IGNORANCE.  There is a genuine lack of knowledge of what the Bible really says.  I think the Bible is the only literature on earth, except the Constitution of the United States of America perhaps, that people can claim to know the contents of without actually having read it :-D.  We seem to have this notion that because we are American, went to church “as a kid”,  or heard someone on TV say something once, we automatically have intrinsic understanding of what the Bible (and Jesus) are all about.  Does that sound ridiculous to you?  I certainly hope so.  Unless we are involved in a Bible Study, read small portions regularly, and ultimately, ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand what we are reading, we aren’t going to absorb what the Bible really says.  The all-too-human tendency is to read what we want to see into it, respond in fear to what we don’t understand, or get offended by passages that require additional historical context.  As a result, many people identify themselves as Christian according to an entirely made-up opinion of what the Bible says.  I think “Do not judge” is the most misunderstood phrase from the Bible and used as the mantra of many individuals who consider themselves to be Christian.   Adherence to ideals that may not even come from the Bible, but are merely supposed to be Christian in origin, is a claim-by-ignorance to ChristianityThe most dangerous aspect of this type of claim is that it cannot save anyone.  Saving faith comes by hearing the word of God: if we never hear what the Bible actually says, we cannot respond in faith to it; if we don’t respond in faith, we cannot be saved by God’s grace.

I am not trying to condemn anyone who thinks they may fit into any of these categories.  If you notice, I try to use “we” and “us” instead of “you”; I am as human as anyone and have the same tendencies (It really does take one to know one!  And no, that is not from the Bible 😉 )  However, all of these (false) claims to Christianity contribute to the confusion surrounding a genuinely Christian identity.  Christians culture is supposed to be defined by separation from idolatrous and pagan influences, accompanied by greater (in number) works than Christ did, a self-sacrificing care for fellow believers, a willingness to be persecuted in order to live lives of purity, a forgiveness for persecutors and enemies that manifests itself in acts of unwarranted kindness, and a boldness in sharing what Jesus has done for us personally, a heart-cry for Jesus to return and glorify Himself among the nations.  Compare that to the cold, institutionalized conglomerate of denominations and buildings we see in the West today; we are in desperate need for Collective Hope!

The key to being light and salt in a dark and increasingly homogeneous (bland, conformist) world is to maintain our identity in who we are in Christ and not allow any to redefine that to make us more like everyone else.  And always, always, without apology, we need to:

...worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.  But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.

1 Peter 3:15-16 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation

Helping of Hope: We can have “Collective Hope” as we repent of the ways we have accommodated anti-Christian beliefs and practices.  We have to look past petty theological divisions to see a common infiltrator-enemy of ideology.  We can strengthen each other as we restore worship, hunger for God’s Word, and rebuild the ruined boundaries that define and protect us from outside attack.

If you have come to realize that you aren’t really Christian, despite thinking of yourself as a Christian for a long time perhaps, and want to be anchored into personal faith in Him, you can read how in my first MIQVEH post, One Hope.

If you enjoyed this Faith Fridays post (!), please share using one of the options below.  Thanks!

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What is your hope riding on?

Today we are going to look at the (possible) fourth and sixth occurrences of the Hebrew word for hope MIQVEH–collection or gathering–in the Bible to learn more about where hope comes from, what it is, and what it ought to be based on.

Solomon’s horses were brought out of Egypt, and the king’s merchants received them in droves, each at a price.

Solomon’s horses were brought out of Egypt; the king’s merchants received them in droves, each drove at a price.

1 Kings 10:28; 2 Chronicles 1:16.  Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

I say “possible” because there is some discrepancy between Hebrew texts whether the word ought to be MIQVEH or QAVEH, the masculine noun form of QAVAH (the word for “wait” that we looked at in the Faith Friday’s | Bound in Hope post and will be discussing in more depth in the future).  MIQVEH, QAVEH, and TIQVAH all come from the verb root QAVAH, to bind.  They are all related through the main idea of bringing and combining something together. They are almost identical in spelling, also.

  • MIQVEH: מקוה, HVQM;
  • TIQVAH: תּקוה, HVQT;
  • QAVAH/QAVEH: קוה, HVQ.

Same last letters reading right-to-left, different first letters (vowels are implied).

Some people will choose to look at such a minor discrepancy as evidence of the Bible’s fallibility; far from it, the insignificance of the difference confirms the Bible’s unprecedented accuracy despite the fact that translators have no access to the original documents, the only literary items considered infallible by adherents to Verbal Plenary Inspiration (generally, the idea that every word of the Bible is inspired by God).

All the Hebrew documents we have are in a whopping 85% agreement; hardly a case of “Chinese Whispers” after being preserved for approximately 2,500 to 3,500 years (Chinese whispers is typically 0% accurate after only a few iterations).  Most translation errors come from minor copyist errors, like the one above, with a few caused by obscure words that are resolved by earlier texts as they are discovered.

If you’re still not sure about those minor discrepancies, stick to the 85% undisputed Hebrew words and keep an open heart to the 15% of disputed texts as translation issues are resolved (these disputes are often noted in the center columns or endnotes of various English translations; alternate translations, manuscript differences, and other difficulties are openly discussed so you can weigh them in context).  The essential teachings of the Bible are not going to change; with 66 books in tow, including the New Testament, there are so many undisputed parts of the Bible that they more than adequately cover subjects from the minor passages that have translation nuances.

The Bible you hold in your hand (or scroll through online) is the most accurate historical book to date with no theological contradictions, all reputable texts being considered.  It is more accurate than anything you will hear on the news or the TV; it is up to you to decide if those outlets are more dependable than the Bible

Using human intellect to criticize the Bible is like trying to calibrate a laser with a yard-stick: we are far less accurate in our speech and ideology than the Bible.  In science, one cannot accurately measure an object with a larger one (this is why atoms are often “viewed” with electrons instead of light).  Since human beings are so poorly self-defined, we are not fit to measure the Bible (to scoff at its accuracy or perceived lack thereof); however, the Bible is more than adequate to measure us (in conduct and consistency since it remains essentially unchanged)!

The Bible has survived thousands of years of caustic contention as well as reasonable inquiry.  It provides rigorous answers to inquisitive minds and silences the career skeptic.  The contemporary Bible can hold its own, copyist errors and all!  Imagine what voices of criticism would be forced into complete silence were the original documents found…

Therefore, I have no problem calling the Bible we have today the Word of God even if there are copyist errors or minor translation obscurities.  Personally, I believe God thinks the Bible is accurate enough for us to pay attention to every single wordJesus and the apostles quoted from the Septuagint, a Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures that varied slightly in wording to make it more readily understood to Hellenized Jewry.  Several of Jesus’ teachings and the apostles’ references come from or agree with the Talmud, which isn’t even in the “Canon of Scripture”. Jesus had no difficulty quoting or relying on the “modern” translations of His day.

Sometimes we invent arbitrary rules to disqualify God; nothing exists that could satisfy our unrealistic expectations of accuracy (least of all ourselves–there’s true hypocrisy!).  Those self-sabotaging rules of accuracy are the byproduct of our modern, litigative thinking.  (We have jumped out of the frying pan of the Pharisees into the fire of the Scribes!)  The greatest Biblical accuracy is this: put its teachings into practice, by faith, and watch God transform and bless you as He promises!

Back to MIQVEH (thank you for patiently bearing with my discussion on Biblical accuracy).  The MIQVEH/QAVAH debate is resolved by the simple fact that they both translate literally to similar words:

  • MIQVEH translates as “yarn” (King James Version, which uses the ben Chayyim 1524/5 edition of Bomberg’s 1516/7 Rabbinic Bible); It means a collection and hope.
  • QAVEH translates as “line” (not used literally in any version, but appears in Kittle’s 1912 Biblia Hebraica used by both the New King James Version and New American Standard Bible). It means a measuring cord used for binding.

Yarn and Line both speak of “roping off” or measuring “by the line”; the translation is made clear by the Amplified Bible (see verses above) which expounds original wording rather well within a word-for-word framework and that is why I am using it for this post!  (If you see “from Keveh”, “from Kue”, “from Cilicia” in your favorite translation, know that the translators are trying to make sense of QAVEH in these obscure verses by suggesting it could be a place-name.  I’m sticking with the AMP! –A.M.)

So what was being MIQVEH-ed (or QAVEH-ed)? What was being gathered together in hope in these nearly replicated verses in the books of the Kings and the Chronicles of Israel and Judah?

Horses!

(My husband likes to modify his autocross race-car to gather his “horses” together…that gives him lots of hope (!), but I’m not so sure that’s what Solomon was going for…)

Solomon was so wealthy that he didn’t purchase a horse the same way you and I would purchase a car.  We would purchase with careful inspection, pitiful price bargaining, bank wheedling, begrudging document signing, and cautious driving.

Solomon, however, said, “I’ll take the entire lot!” He ordered his horses “by the line”, in droves as the AMP translates.  I think we are hard-pressed to imagine how inordinately wealthy that is; buying things in bulk just to own them, not even having the opportunity to use them.  Storing them from place to place and in the end, just reselling them to other people…for even more money!

Of course, horses were not really for transportation.  They were for war.  But here’s the thing: Solomon ruled at a time of great peace.  In fact, that was what God promised him (through Solomon’s father, King David):

But you will have a son who will be a man of peace. I will give him peace with his enemies in all the surrounding lands. His name will be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel during his reign.

1 Chronicles 22:9 New Living Translation (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Why did Solomon purchase so many horses?  Because he could.  His addiction to spending and trading was rivaled only by his addiction to women and accumulating money.  Solomon had the cheat code to the single-player strategy game and he was racking up coins, horses, ladies, and treaties.  Everything he needed for a high score, right?  Wrong.

Four hundred and fifty years earlier, Moses had warned the Hebrew people against such a king:

“You are about to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you take it over and settle there, you may think, ‘We should select a king to rule over us like the other nations around us.’ If this happens, be sure to select as king the man the Lord your God chooses. You must appoint a fellow Israelite; he may not be a foreigner. “The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.

“When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.

Deuteronomy 17:16-20, New Living Translation (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Solomon did more than buy horses from Egypt (the nation that oppressed the Hebrew people as I discussed in an earlier post, When Hope Turns to Blood); he made a treaty with Pharoah and married his daughter.  The very nation that had oppressed them four centuries ago, from which God delivered Israel with signs and wonders and having removed them from Egypt, spent another forty years in the wilderness removing Egypt from them, was now being treated as Israel’s best friend because they were wealthy.  This kind of Machiavellian expediency seems puzzling in a man who wrote so many proverbs and was raised under the godly influence of a passionate man like King David.  Moses might have turned in his grave; all that plague and tragic loss of life due to one kings’ stubbornness (Pharoah of Moses’ time) all trivialized by another’s (Solomon’s).

Why would Solomon, supposedly so wise, do the opposite of what God had commanded almost half a millennium before him?

The answer is so incredibly simple that it makes this wisest of kings seem silly.

Solomon forgot to read his Bible.

According to this passage, Solomon was supposed to copy the law on the scroll and read it daily.  Solomon’s wisdom rivaled that of any man but it did not rival God’s.  The same Solomon who in the book of Proverbs asserted that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” forgot that God’s Word is a treasure that far exceeds that of power, sex, and money (blessings which come from God and are best enjoyed according to His principles).  Solomon unwittingly fell into the same trap that all people fall into if we are not well guarded; seeing God’s blessing as an end in itself, and through over-indulgence, coming to see ourselves as an ultimate end.

Why did Solomon stop reading the Bible (or the Scriptures he had available to him at the time)?  Probably for the same reasons you and I do.  When things are going well and God’s blessing seems to be flowing steadily into our lives, we feel as though we have all the answers; we perceive the Bible to be a problem-solving book and when we don’t think that we have any problems, we feel no need to read it.  We are like mental patients who feel that since things are going so well as a result of following our medication regimen, we must no longer need it; we take personal ownership of the positive results and forget it is the medication that keeps us grounded.  The spiritual results of forgoing daily reminders of Truth are no less dramatic or harmful than rejecting needed antipsychotic meds.

Solomon had once cried out to God for wisdom to carry out his duties; however religious Solomon may have been during these Golden years, his hunger for Truth was being temporarily placated by temporal blessings.  Unfortunately, when we try to use sex, money, and power to fill or distract us from our need for God those blessings become our gods and we become their slaves.  Solomon’s ravenous appetite only underscored the greatness of his spiritual neglect.  The obesity epidemic in America today is similar: our bodies are crying out for nutrition and receiving sugar instead.  The more depleted we are of the nutrition we need, the more sugar we crave.  As long as we can keep functioning, we don’t want to change…but change will come, for better or worse.  The body isn’t designed to run on sugar.  We can’t live on blessings alone, either; we need the Word of God.

There’s a more sinister twist to Solomon’s fate than merely being distracted by “good times”.  Solomon actually became fairly deceived.  The nations Solomon had made treaties with–and the “seal-the-deal” wives he had accumulated as a result–all came with a hefty price.  He had married them to bring Israel peace; they had married him and stolen his.  True inner peace only comes when we keep God first; with every wife Solomon acquired, there was a new deity and religion to accommodate.

When we abandon the Word of God as our primary source of hope, our hearts are no longer guarded against falsehood.  Anything might be true without its absolutes. Sometimes in our attempt to reach out to skeptical or resistant people, we overburden ourselves with the need to explain our faith; we take responsibility to fix their problems with accepting it.  We can certainly reason with others, but we cannot do their wrestling with the Truth for them. With the struggle comes a metamorphosis: new identity and hope!

I wonder if Solomon overextended himself in his attempt to be understanding of other cultures, hoping his wives would convert to Judaism, only to find himself wrestling with a myriad of contradictory and charming traditions that seemed to weigh more heavily in him than they ought to?  I’m sure the pretty faces that came with those ideas did not help to encourage his theological resolve!  Perhaps he felt that so many other nice and wonderful people could not possibly all be wrong.  In his insecurity, he invalidated the God who had been victorious in battle against all of the nations represented in Solomon’s Harem.  Some of those nations would attack Israel not long after Solomon’s death.  They hadn’t forgotten who they were or what was in their best interest.  Solomon had.

Solomon had not maintained healthy boundaries in his relationships and pursuits: he had an “out-of-control soul”.  He was like a city without walls or gates; while he was focused on expansion, his wives were used to loot him of any identity he had in God.  The wealthy king who gave lavish gifts to all his visitors and impressed dignitaries with his opulence had become spiritually and emotionally impoverished.  He had forgotten his own proverb:

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Proverbs 4:23 New Living Translation (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Solomon had put his hopes, economically and militarily, in droves of horses.  If he didn’t need them, he could sell them; if he did need them, he could grind opposition in the dust (or so he thought).  There was only one thing that really could have defended Solomon: only one thing that was needed to keep him truly safe.  His father David knew what it was:

Do not snatch your word of truth from me, for your regulations are my only hope.

May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy, for I have put my hope in your word.

I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word.

You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope.

I am counting on the LORD; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word.

Psalm 119: 43, 74, 81, 114; 130:5. New Living Translation (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

David knew there was only one thing holding him together: God’s Word, His promises and regulations.  David meditated on them, wrote songs about them, prayed them day in and day out.  They convicted him, reassured him, and helped him to live within the boundaries that God would bless him in.  Even when David messed up royally, God’s word helped him to repent fully and be restored quickly.

That wasn’t the case with his son.

Solomon’s sad, anticlimactic, and inevitable demise is recorded in 1 Kings chapter 11.  After melding Judaism with paganism and refusing to honor God’s warnings about his wives’ influence on him, Solomon is told the kingdom will be torn apart by the divisive forces he has introduced.  Solomon the international peacemaker had become the domestic peace loser by accepting ideologies that were always at war with his.  Three enemies plagued Solomon until the day he died; there was a civil war in the early days of his son’s reign that tore the nation of Israel apart.  Solomon had amassed unparalleled wealth, but left nothing of real value to his children; they grew up without wisdom, without identity, and without God.  Without these protections, the physical blessings they had were soon stripped away.  The wealth Solomon had accumulated from trade with Egypt was shortly plundered after he died…by Egypt.  The horses sold to the Arameans were used against Israel.  The idols that Solomon had made room for in order to accommodate others’ belief systems remained a snare for his descendants for over 400 years.

So what about you?

Have you decided that you don’t need the Word of God, the Bible?  Do you feel successful enough on your own?  Are you above other people; do different rules apply to you?  Despite your success, do you feel like there is something more to life that is missing; do you notice that there are things you are addicted to that seem to be praiseworthy, but have actually enslaved you so that you “can’t change”?  Are you accumulating false hope in droves, only to see it steal real peace from you in droves?

Perhaps the Bible seems silly to you; it couldn’t possibly be true!  Not with all the different belief systems out there!  Not with human error.  The only way for everything to be true is for none of it to be really true; if each person is determining what truth is, then the only god we serve is ourselves: powerless to save, powerless to protect, powerless to truly satisfy.  Not much hope there.  At the root of idolatry is the worship of self; could it be that God is real, but you cannot see Him with yourself in the way?  Have you added unrealistic expectations on truth to disqualify it from ever challenging you?  Have you cut yourself off from Hope?

There is hope in the Word of God.  Hope to restore your identity; hope to define, keep, and guard your boundaries.  Hope to protect you from marauding ideologies.  Hope to pass on to the next generation so they will not be plundered of the blessings you have worked hard to provide for them.  The biggest treasure and the dearest hope in the Bible is found in knowing God and having the priviledge of calling Him by name (Lord Jesus):

Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.

Psalm 20:7, New Living Translation (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

If your hope is gathered in droves, set it aside and spend some time with God today.  Sing  Him a song, pray for a few minutes, and read the very accurate Word of God.  It won’t be long before it starts speaking into your life and giving you fresh hope that will last beyond your lifetime.
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[HOH update: I apologize I haven’t posted at all this week due to back-to-school reorganization!  I hope this post helps me get back into the swing of things…]

Are you making anyone thirsty? Learn how you can become a MIQVEH of pure hope.

This is our fourth week looking at the Hebrew word MIQVEH, a collection or gathering symbolizing hope.  Our first week explained how the triune God is the Source of our Hope; our second week we dealt with hoping in the deep and definite personality of God; the third week discussed how hope can become polluted by oppression.  Today we are going to discuss a pool, collection, or resevoir–MIQVEH–of hope that cannot be polluted.  The third of ten times MIQVEH appears in Scripture occurs in the book of Leviticus:

“However, if the carcass of such an animal falls into a spring or a cistern, the water will still be clean. But anyone who touches the carcass will be defiled.”

Leviticus 11:36 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

In the Old Testament, there were rules about uncleanness.  In many cases, uncleanness was equivalent to infection.  In other cases, unclean referred figuratively to objects or behaviors that would cause the Israelites to become infected by outside influences.  “Unclean” was synonymous with “contagion” and it was dealt with in an incredibly clinical (sometimes surgical) process.  Those who were temporarily unclean were banned from public places and ordered to wash themselves several times before rejoining the general population in corporate worship.  Those who engaged in ethical uncleanness were “cut off” from the people literally (i.e. they were put to death or forced to live outside the settlement).  Anything unclean was not supposed to be touched, kept, or eaten.  What is interesting about this principle is that Jesus, born into the Jewish people, seemed to completely ignore it when it was applied to people.

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.

Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”

But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him.

Mark 1:40-45 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

Lepers were considered unclean because they carried a potentially fatal and aggressively infectious skin disease.  They had to announce “unclean!” wherever they went so others would not accidentally touch them and become infected.  Lepers were not allowed to be touched.

The question remains: why did Jesus touch the leper?  He could have healed him from a distance as with the Centurion’s servant.  Jesus made a point of touching this infectious man; Mark makes a point of Jesus being moved with compassion to do it.  Was Jesus breaking the Law to heal this leper by touching him?  Jesus obviously cared enough about the Law of Moses to insist that the healed man present himself to the Levitical priests, so that is not possible.  The key to understanding how Jesus could touch the leper and not become unclean is in our MIQVEH verse above: Jesus is the spring or cistern of water that cannot become unclean.  Unlike a cistern of regular water, anything that touches this Spring of Hope (Jesus) is instantly made clean.

But the voice [from heaven] spoke [to Peter] again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.”

Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean.

Acts 10:15, 28 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the spiritual distinction between Jew and Gentile disappeared because cleansing was made available to everyone.  God spoke to Peter in a vision explaining that the Jewish laws on uncleanness no longer applied in the same way because of the cleansing work of Jesus.  So how exactly how did Jesus have the power or ability to clean?

So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 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 5:20-21 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.

1 John 3:4-6 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

Jesus never sinned once.  He did not break the Law, nor did He act inconsistently with the character or nature of God.  He died in our place to make the “unclean” clean!

Most people recognize the purpose of Jesus’ death and resurrection is to provide forgiveness of sins, but Jesus wants us to do more than merely contain His life for our personal salvation.  He wants to make us replicas of Himself, staying pure and pouring hope and life into the world around us.  Jesus made this promise to His disciples:

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

John 3:37-39 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

If you and I believe in Jesus then we can become fountains of living water too: we have the power to stay clean.  When we sin, we confess it to Him and He is faithful to cleanse us from it all; as He changes us, we can resist sin all the more.  Jesus is the means by which we can stay perpetually clean and more than that…provide hope–healing, deliverance, refreshment, life–for the decaying world around us.

What about you?  Are you a cistern, a spring, a MIQVEH of hope?  Do you cry out for more of God’s Spirit in your life so that you are able to bring hope to those who are unclean and untouchable?  The Holy Spirit is given to all who believe in Jesus, yet we are admonished to ask for more of Him: without Him we would be stagnant pools that become infected by every unclean thing that drops into us.  We live in a fallen world with hurt people: carcasses of all sorts abound ranging from attitudes and lifestyles to devastating circumstances and broken relationships.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to not become stagnant in hope when those dead things touch our lives and instead, to break through the debris of past and present hurts with unstoppable, pure, living hope?

Jesus is our MIQVEH, our Pure Hope.  He died so we could be made whole and clean.  If you have not accepted Him as your Source of life and hope, your Savior, then the death in the world has already infected you.  Allow Him to wash you with His words and touch you with His compassion, to heal you of all the deadness and sin in your life.  If you are a believer in Jesus, don’t stop up that fountain of living water in you by sinning; don’t be a Zombie Christian, decaying from the outside in, indistinguishable from the death in the world.  Don’t deny the power of Jesus from touching every aspect of your life.  Instead, be a fountain of living water by crying out for more of His Spirit, allowing Him to remove those carcasses within, so His life will flow through you from the inside-out.

Let’s be MIQVEHs of pure hope for the thirsty!

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Does God pay attention to blood? Does He keep track of it? Find out how the answer to these questions significantly impacts your hopeful future.

This is our third week studying the Hebrew word for hope, MIQVEH, which also means a gathering, collection, or reservoir.  It is one of the words God uses to describe Himself as our Hope, as I mentioned two weeks ago.  Today we are going to discuss the second occurrence of MIQVEH in the Bible.  It is translated as “reservoirs” in the verse below:

Then the Lord said to Moses: “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and raise your hand over the waters of Egypt—all its rivers, canals, ponds, and all the reservoirs. Turn all the water to blood. Everywhere in Egypt the water will turn to blood, even the water stored in wooden bowls and stone pots.

Exodus 7:19 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

A few generations before this plague there was an imprisoned Hebrew slave named Joseph who rose to a place of prominence because he displayed God’s power to interpret Pharoah’s dream.  Joseph was a man of extraordinary administrative skill; everything he touched became successful and prosperous, even the nation of Egypt itself.  It is thought that he created an irrigation system in Egypt (perhaps to mitigate or as a result of a seven-year famine), of which the infamous Joseph’s Canal at Hawara played a part.  Joseph’s principles of irrigation seemed to bless and prosper the nation of Egypt posthumously: generations later while Joseph’s descendants and the Hebrew people were being oppressed as slaves, the Egyptians were still collecting water from rivers and canals into ponds and reservoirs “just in case”.  Never again would they suffer as they once had.  They had learned their lesson!  As the verse above indicates, the  Egyptians were also about to learn a new one…

Ironically, this was a lesson that the Hebrew people, as the nation of Israel, would also need to be reminded of.  The Israelites were engaging in the worship according to the pattern that had been given to them at Sinai: they offered sacrifices and they fasted.  However, their prayers were not being answered and they were wondering why.  This is the response God gave them through the prophet Isaiah:

No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
    lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
    and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
    and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
    and do not hide from relatives who need your help...

“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
    Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
Feed the hungry,
    and help those in trouble.

Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
    and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The Lord will guide you continually,
    giving you water when you are dry
    and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like an ever-flowing spring.

Isaiah 58:6, 7, 10-11 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

The Israelites were acting religious on the surface, but they were insulting God by oppressing their workers and taking advantage of the weak.  They pretended that God was their hope even as they were depriving others of hope!  Their oppression took the form of deprived wages, denied assistance, no hospitality, ignoring relatives, false accusations and gossip.  God told Israel that if they fasted from their own selfishness and greed, it would do more to put them in a receptive position to receive His favor and blessing than if they tried to get His attention through comparatively meaningless self-deprivation.

This same issue with relying on oppression to get ahead was addressed earlier by Isaiah:

This is the reply of the Holy One of Israel:
“Because you despise what I tell you
    and trust instead in oppression and lies,
calamity will come upon you suddenly—
    like a bulging wall that bursts and falls.
In an instant it will collapse
    and come crashing down.

Isaiah 30:12-13 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

I find it interesting that whenever we have an economic calamity, we use similar terminology: the bubble burst, the markets fell, the housing situation collapsed…and it seems to happen “suddenly” and “in an instant” indeed, even though the pressure (with ignored warning signs) had been mounting for months, perhaps years.  We don’t have to investigate very far to find out that oppression and lies are endemic to economic maladies and can be singled out as the underlying cause of all material injustice.

This principle of avoiding oppression as a means to get ahead is recurrent throughout the Bible.  I wonder if the accusations against God being good for allowing suffering in the world could be immediately stopped if we would consider that it is OUR job to take care of their needs, yet God is faithful to give them justice in the end.  Consider these verses:

Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him.
Proverbs 14:31 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

The wicked who oppress the poor are like a hailstorm that beats down the harvest.
Proverbs 28:3 The Message Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

“But you! You have eyes only for greed and dishonesty! You murder the innocent, oppress the poor, and reign ruthlessly.”
Jeremiah 22:17 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Even common people oppress the poor, rob the needy, and deprive foreigners of justice.
Ezekiel 22:29 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Listen to me, you fat cows living in Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy, and who are always calling to your husbands, “Bring us another drink!”
Amos 4:1 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

For I know the vast number of your sins and the depth of your rebellions. You oppress good people by taking bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
Amos 5:12 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.
Zechariah 7:10 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court?
James 2:6 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Wow.  God sounds ticked.  Is it any wonder that we see the problems we do today?  We insist that He do things for us, but we aren’t willing to lift a finger for anyone else.  Our prayers that we send to heaven would have been gladly received, had they not been caught on our selfishness on the way up! 

Perhaps you do give to the poor, practice hospitality regularly, care for your relatives and avoid gossiping about people.  If you really are genuine, then your prayers should be answered more than most other people’s.  It is important that we don’t get smug, however; oppression can hide itself in so many ways that it is not always readily apparent.  It is ugly to look at so we have become pretty good at covering it up, renaming it, and justifying it.

Let’s go back to Egypt and the Genesis verse above.  For years Egypt had been oppressing the Hebrews as slaves, using them for forced labor to make mud bricks.  While it is not likely the Hebrews built the pyramids, Egypt profited from their “free labor”.  Slaves were routinely violated and God saw it all.  I think that we forget His omniscience means that God not only knows THAT something has happened, but he has an intimate, experiential knowledge of it.  He sees every cell firing, the electrical impulses going down nerve pathways, the blood being spilled on the ground. Here is an example:

But the LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!

Genesis 4:10 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

God HEARD Abel’s blood crying out when his brother Cain murdered him.  Personally, I think God feels every murder, every rape, every starving stomach crying out for food.  It is a wonder He can hear anything else over all that noise.  I’m pretty sure He is driven to distraction by it.  And then our prayers come up for… more food.  More clothes.  More success.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with those prayers, but they are probably less important to God than cries to God for rescue and to be allowed to live.  I am not suggesting that God has to prioritize: God is not limited in His resource to meet everyone’s needs.   However, I believe that God is not going to enable our disobedience by rewarding it unduly while others suffer.  Meeting others’ needs is a reward in and of itself!

We are very much like Egypt.  We have collected our hope into pools and reservoirs.  For many those reservoirs are material possessions like houses, cars, retirement plans, etc.  Those things are not at all bad, they are morally neutral; many of them have been collected according to godly principles even as the Egyptians had collected their water according to good irrigation principles.  Having a pool or reservoir is not a crime; it is a sign (not the sign) of God’s blessing.  For others, those pools are people; friends, family, followers, cities, communities and institutions.  It is wonderful to love people, but we can all be led astray if we go along with the culture by practicing what God sees as oppression and covering it up with popular rhetoric.

What happens when our pools and reservoirs, our collections of hopes and dreams, become tainted…by blood?

I think the answer to that comes from another question: What was the tipping point in Egypt’s history?  They had oppressed the Hebrews for hundreds of years and were prospering.  God saw the injustice, but He was waiting to step in to stop it.  I believe the tipping point came when Pharoah ordered the slaughter of all the Hebrew infants (it was also at this time that the sins of the people groups in Canaan were reaching their fullest expression).  One of the Hebrew babies escaped and became the very Moses who, by the power of God, turned the Egyptians pools and reservoirs–even their sources, the rivers and canals–to blood.  Those pools came to reflect the very injustice that had infiltrated Egyptian society and tainted what had once been the pride and joy of the civilized world.

Though the subject seems overdone in this pre-election season, I think abortion is going to be the tipping point that taints the pools of our material and cultural hope, though we may not see the full result for a time.  We keep covering up the issue by renaming it as reproductive rights, family planning rights, and health rights.  But God sees one thing and one thing only: blood.  Blood with one DNA and filled with potential being spilled by someone more powerful with different DNA.  Self-invented rights don’t get God’s attention over the screaming of blood: God knows He is the source of all truly ‘inalienable’ rights, especially the right to life that He  gave freely as a gift.  He also gave us our reproductive organs to enjoy (with instructions on how best to enjoy them), but not at the expense of His other gifts, including the right to life.  God expects the strong to protect the weak; just because He does not intervene in each case does not mean that the pressure behind the wall isn’t mounting.  His absence of intervention is not permission to continue; it is opportunity to repent and change course before the inevitable comes.

So let’s return to the person who has not oppressed the poor, who has helped friend and family member alike.  What happens if such a person neglects to oppose this one issue, abortion?  Or what if we should fail to do our part to bring an end to human trafficking, the modern sex slavery in which a girl can be bought for $150 (in the US civil war, a slave cost the equivalent of $30,000 in today’s money)?  Leviticus 20:1-5, while it may not be directly enforceable today, makes it clear that if we look the other way, God holds us accountable.  It isn’t enough to Him that we don’t do it, we must be fervent to eradicate it from our land.  If we do not, the reservoirs of all our hopes and dreams–our economies and our institutions–will be tainted and rendered useless by the blood of those we neglected to help.  The Bible makes it clear that everything touched by injustice will be destroyed beyond all hope of repair (Isaiah 30:14). 

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
    ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
    and see that they get justice

Proverbs 31:8-9 New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

So what are you doing to clear God’s ears of the noise of human suffering?  Are you a voice for the oppressed?  Are you willing to bring hope to those who have none?

 

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