Understands

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV) 

The Hebrew word translated “understands” above is sakal (שָׂכַל). It means to give attention to, consider, ponder, to have understanding or wisdom. The word is used 63 times in the Old Testament, but the ironic and tragic thing about this word is the context of its first use in Genesis 3:6. 

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise (sakal), she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6 (ESV) 

God yearns for us to understand and know him, but Adam and Eve desired to have their own understanding – to know and choose for themselves what was good and true. Adam and Eve had ample opportunity to give attention to, consider, ponder, come to understand God. But, if they had, they would have known that he not only practices love, but is love, he is just and righteous. The charge that God was keeping something from them would not have rung true.  

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 (ESV) 

Instead of knowing and understanding God and his wisdom, they wanted to decide for themselves what was good and evil. The ironic thing is that they did not become like God as promised, but, instead, became their own counterfeit gods. And they found themselves hiding from the real wisdom, the real light, the real life.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8 

Isn’t it still the same today? But God is still calling out.

Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9 

He is still seeking. He is still calling. He is still knocking. Let us come out from our hiding places and know the One who loves us.

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17: 3 (ESV) 

“It was not Adam who sought God, but God who sought Adam. And this has been the order ever since.” 
~ Arthur Pink, Gleanings in Genesis 

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10

So let us know and become personally acquainted with Him; let us press on to know and understand fully the [greatness of the] LORD [to honor, heed, and deeply cherish Him]. His appearing is prepared and is as certain as the dawn, And He will come to us [in salvation] like the [heavy] rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth. Hosea 6:3 (Amplified)

Image by Jack Bair, all rights reserved

Flowing Myrrh

What really got me about the myrrh is how it is harvested.

I slept but my heart was awake. 

    Listen! My beloved is knocking: 

“Open to me, my sister, my darling, 

    my dove, my flawless one. 

My head is drenched with dew, 

    my hair with the dampness of the night.” 

I have taken off my robe— 

    must I put it on again? 

I have washed my feet— 

    must I soil them again? 

My beloved thrust his hand through the latch-opening; 

    my heart began to pound for him. 

I arose to open for my beloved, 

    and my hands dripped with myrrh, 

my fingers with flowing myrrh, 

    on the handles of the bolt. 

I opened for my beloved, 

    but my beloved had left; he was gone. 

    My heart sank at his departure. 

I looked for him but did not find him. 

    I called him but he did not answer. (Song of Solomon 5:2-6) 

This passage reminds me of the parable Jesus told of the man in bed who didn’t want to get up to help his friend.  

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’?  Luke 11:5-7 

Just like the Shulamite in the above verse, the man was all cozy and settled and didn’t want to get up. But he finally did, as she did, when the knocking continued. Jesus called it “shameless audacity.” And I suppose it is audacious, knocking on someone’s door persistently in the middle of the night – especially the door of a bride. But he does not give up. Though it appears, when she finally gets up, that he has left, he has not abandoned her. But rather he has aroused her to rise up and seek him. For he “works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)  

And he has left behind in his passion, the needed grace, for she says, “I arose to open for my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with flowing myrrh, on the handles of the bolt.”   

He has left behind flowing myrrh. What is the significance of the myrrh? The Illustrated Bible Dictionary says this about myrrh:i 

“First mentioned as a principal ingredient in the holy anointing oil ( Exodus 30:23 ). It formed part of the gifts brought by the wise men from the east, who came to worship the infant Jesus ( Matthew 2:11 ). It was used in embalming (John 19:39 ), also as a perfume ( Esther 2:12 ; Psalms 45:8 ; Proverbs 7:17 ). It was a custom of the Jews to give those who were condemned to death by crucifixion ‘wine mingled with myrrh’ to produce insensibility. This drugged wine was probably partaken of by the two malefactors, but when the Roman soldiers pressed it upon Jesus ‘he received it not’ ( Mark 15:23 ).”  

So, the myrrh looks forward to Jesus, our anointed High Priest, who would die for us on the cross, and to the Bridegroom, perfumed for the wedding to the Bride.  

“He has come perfumed as if for a festival, and the costly ointment which he brought with him has dropped on the handles of the bolts (מנעוּל, keeping locked, after the form מלבּוּשׁ, drawing on), viz., the inner bolt, which he wished to withdraw.” — Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament 

What really got me about the myrrh, though, is how it is harvested. “Myrrh is harvested by repeatedly wounding the trees to bleed the gum, which is waxy and coagulates quickly. After the harvest, the gum becomes hard and glossy.”ii 

This myrrh that is left behind on the handle is still fresh and running. Still new.

His mercies are new every morning. Lamentations 3:23 

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 

The myrrh left behind on the handle is “[s]weet smelling myrrh – Or (as in the margin) ‘running myrrh,’ that which first and spontaneously exudes, i. e., the freshest, finest myrrh. Even in withdrawing he has left this token of his unchanged love.” — Barnes Notes on the Bible (emphasis mine) 

The Bridegroom has left behind the token of his unchanged love for us. But the myrrh also points to the Bride. The running or liquid myrrh was used, as commanded by the Lord to Moses, to anoint, in addition to Aaron, his sons to serve as priests, and to anoint the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 30:22-30). That points to us. We have been anointed as priests to serve our God (Exodus 19:6, Revelation 1:6). We are the Tent of Meeting, or Temple (1 Corinthians 3:16).   

Rise up and seek Him church! It is time. He is knocking. 

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 (ESV) 

i M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, 
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. 

ii Caspar Neumann, William Lewis, The chemical works of Caspar Neumann, M.D.,2nd Ed., Vol 3, London, 1773 p.55 (quoted from Wikipedia) 

Image in the Public Domain. Commiphora myrrha tree, one of the primary trees from which myrrh is harvested. Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrrh#/media/File:Commiphora_myrrha_-_K%C3%B6hler%E2%80%93s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-019.jpg  

In the Midnight Season

In the path (way) of your judgments (justice, plan, standard, divine law),  

O Lord, we wait (we are collected, bound together with you, remain, endure, expect, look) for you;  

your name (revealed character) and remembrance (renown, memory, scent)  

are the desire (longing, satisfaction) of our soul (heart, being, life, passion, hunger and thirst, breath). 

My soul (my living being, life, self, person, desire, passion)  

yearns (covets, greatly desires, craves, longs) for you in the night (in adversity, in the midnight season); 

[Indeed! Yes! Yet!] 

my spirit (my very breath of life) within me (in my inward parts, my center)  

earnestly seeks (diligently, early in the morning, searches for) you. 

Isaiah 26:8-9 (ESV) 

In the dark path
in the midnight season
I am looking for you
seeking seeking
I breathe your lingering scent
where are you?
my soul my heart my very center
desires longs craves
in the night
in the midnight season
I search for you

Image, Dune Trees at Night by Jack Bair. All rights reserved.

Yet You Are Near

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (ESV) 

The Lord is near (in place, in time, in personal relationship, in kinship, father, brother, friend) 

to the brokenhearted (the heart, mind, soul that is broken, maimed, crippled, wrecked, crushed, shattered) 

and saves (delivers, liberates, gives victory to, defends, helps, preserves, rescues, keeps safe, brings into the spacious place, open, wide, free) 

the crushed (crushed to dust, destroyed, contrite) in spirit. 

When your heart is broken and shattered by this world. When your spirit is crushed into the dust. When you feel like your life is over, that you have messed up irretrievably, and God has turned his back in disgust. Yet – beyond understanding, unfathomable, amazing grace! – that is when God is near. 

Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true. Psalm 119:151 

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Isaiah 55:6 

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18 

… the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. Deuteronomy 30:14 

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8 

He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Isaiah 50:8 

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Romans 8:33 

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20 (ESV) 

Yet … 

Come near to God Salvation

Image, The Prodigal Son by Sir John Everett Millais. Released by the Tate https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/millais-the-prodigal-son-a00811 Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

Once Again

Sorry 

I know 

You are there 

You are with me 

You care 

You have a good plan 

You are working 

always  

My heart knows  

I am sitting on your lap 

leaning on your chest 

in the Everlasting Arms 

unfailing 

But  

my head panics 

and once again 

I am flailing  

and I need 

another sign 

another word 

another touch 

You 

I need 

You 

always

Image, Strong by Eduardo Martinez https://flic.kr/p/2ihGeUk   

Always

Continually, continual, daily, regularly, constantly, always …

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71: 3 

From my birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. Psalm 71:6 

But as for me, I shall always have hope; I will praise you more and more. Psalm 71:14 

The Hebrew word tamiyd is used three times in Psalm 71. In the above verses, the word translated “always” and “ever” is tamiyd. It means continually or continuously, constantly, perpetually, evermore. I can continually go to God, praise God, and have hope in God. Yes! And you know why? Because of the other meaning of tamiyd.  

According to the Encyclopaedia Judaic, “Tamid is an abbreviated form for olat tamid (daily burnt-offering), and refers to the daily (morning and evening) sacrifices as set out in Exodus 29:38-42 and Numbers 28:1-8.” i

Tamiyd (or tamid) is the regular, daily sacrifice, the fire of which was never to go out (Leviticus 6:12-13) until the Lamb of God, Jesus, the final sacrifice for sin would come (Hebrews 9:15-27).   

But he [Jesus] has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:26b 

The word also refers to the Bread of the Presence, the shewbread or showbread, which was placed weekly on the golden table in the Tabernacle.  

“The word [tamiyd] is used alone to designate the daily burnt offering in Dan 8:11-13; Dan 11:31; Dan 12:11. Num 4:7 refers to the ‘bread of continuity’ meaning the bread that was always there.” — Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.ii  (emphasis added) 

The Bread that is always there. Jesus, always right there with us. As close as our breath and the beating of our hearts. Hallelujah! 

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John 6:35 

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20 

Continually, continual, daily, regularly, constantly, always, at all times, all day and all night, constant, perpetual, endless, forever, ever, evermore.iii 

Because of the Lamb of God who was the final sacrifice for sin, the Lamb slain before the beginning of the world, whose passionate, fiery love for us never goes out, I can always go into the Presence of God. 

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12 

Because of the Bread of Life who is always there with us, I can ever praise him 

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. Hebrews 13:15 

Because of Jesus who daily bears our burdens and ever lives to make intercession for us, I can always have hope 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23 

My Rock of refuge to whom I can always go, may your fire never go out in me. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually (tamiyd). 1 Chronicles 16:11 

i Encyclopaedia Judaic, Jerusalem, 1971 Keter Publ. House Ltd. 

ii Hebrew word studies in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vols. 1- 2, edited by Laird Harris, Gleason Archer and Bruce Waltke, Chicago: Moody Press, 1981. 

iii Some of the ways that tamiyd is translated in NetBible. 

Draw Near

This week the theme highlighted for me by the Spirit was obviously prayer! I received a cascade of blogs and devotionals on this subject, a welcome confirmation as God has been speaking to me about prayer too. “If you love someone, you talk to them.”  

… I had a strange epiphany in my early college years at the realization that I didn’t really understand why I was praying. Have you had similar thoughts? As soon as you utter, “Amen,” you start to doubt the words that proceeded it. If God is good, why is He waiting on me to pray to bless me, heal that friend, or right that injustice? And if He already has those things in mind, then why am I praying at all? … while I can’t fully explain the theology of prayer, I can explain a little bit about relationships. If you love someone, you talk to them. You relax and talk and (read this part carefully) listen. — 5 Practical Ways to Grow (or start!) Your Prayer Life, blogged by A Grateful Life Lived. Read the whole excellent post here https://agratefullifelived.wordpress.com/2020/11/08/5-practical-ways-to-grow-or-start-your-prayer-life/  

We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  Romans 8:26 

 We realize that we are energized by the Holy Spirit for prayer; and we know what it is to pray in accordance with the Spirit; but we don’t often realize that the Holy Spirit Himself prays prayers in us which we cannot utter ourselves. When we are born again of God and are indwelt by the Spirit of God, He expresses for us the unutterable. — Oswald Chambers, The Unrivaled Power of Prayer, from My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

Your part in intercessory prayer is not to agonize over how to intercede, but to use the everyday circumstances and people God puts around you by His providence to bring them before His throne, and to allow the Spirit in you the opportunity to intercede for them. In this way God is going to touch the whole world with His saints. — Oswald Chambers, The Undetected Sacredness of Circumstances, from My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition 

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matthew 6:6, NAS) 

What’s the “inner room”? I think it’s the place of stillness; the place where you’re shut off from all other voices and influences and you can really hear the voice of God, and when you’re in that relationship with stillness in your inner room, then God speaks to you, you receive faith, you receive revelation and your prayer has a different quality to it. — Derek Prince 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

“Come to Jesus, come the Great High Priest, come to the throne of the Living God, the Lamb who was slain BUT is alive, the grave could not hold Him and you will find His grace is sufficient for your every need. 

Draw near – love Him, fellowship with Him, worship Him, hunger and thirst for Him, cast your cares on Him – draw near with a sincere heart in intimate relationship. 

Note this is not an invitation to come to church, nor is it an invitation for intellectual assent, nor is it an invitation to empty works … this is an invitation to bring our hearts into the very presence of God and commune with Him. The blood of the Lamb, Jesus the Christ, gives us access to into His Presence …” Let’s Approach God, by Beholding Him Ministries https://beholdinghimministries.org/2020/11/10/lets-approach-god/  

Image from Flickr, Praying Woman Hands by Long Thiên

… for it is God

If you feel lost. If you feel far away from God. Cry out to him, for it is God who gives, who restores, who draws, who works. He is yearning for you. You cannot make yourself want to know him. He will do it. He is already.

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:1-2

I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. Jeremiah 24:7

Restore us (draw us, turn us, bring us back, restore, repair, rescue us), O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:3

Restore us (draw us, turn us, bring us back, restore, repair, rescue us), O LORD, and (renew, rebuild, repair us) bring us back to you again! Lamentations 5:21

… for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

I drew them with gentle cords, With bands of love, And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. Hosea 11:4

Taking Refuge

Taking refuge is crucial in these times we are in, but it must be beyond mere head knowledge. It must become part of my very being, like breathing.

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8 (NASB) 

When God highlights something to me that I have been blithely skipping over for 48 years I know he wants me to dig deeper. In this case it was the phrase “takes refuge” that stopped me. To “take refuge” implies action, something I do. I am beginning to see that I have been standing outside the refuge in the malevolent, pummeling storm holding my flimsy umbrella, recognizing correctly that there is a refuge, understanding and believing in the refuge, even memorizing all the verses about the refuge. But, most of the time, not actually doing the effort to “take refuge” – get under His wings, crawl up on His lap. So, my head knowledge, or even my faith in the refuge, does me no good.  

The Hebrew word translated “takes refuge” above is chacah. It means to seek refuge, flee for protection, to put trust in God, confide or hope in God. A related word is batah – to trust in, rely on, take refuge in. A commentator notes that chacah “is probably to be distinguished from batah ‘rely on,’ ‘take refuge in’ as denoting more precipitate action.” [emphasis mine]i

To do something precipitately is to do it in a way that is “sudden and done without thinking” (Cambridge Dictionary). This definition reminds me of kids jumping into the parents’ bed at a house-shaking crack of thunder. It is done without thinking because in their subconscious level that is where safety and security is; where their trust is.

Is trusting in the Lord something we do “without thinking” almost by instinct? Do we jump into his arms when the earth shakes and the storm roars? God is showing me that this only happens when we have made putting our trust in him a long discipline, so that it has become a habit. We have tasted and seen his goodness many times, over and over without fail. The struggle between God and us is over. We have surrendered to Him and experienced his love. Deep down below the level of thinking and logic and reasons we know – we know Him.

Since God showed me this, I have started practicing this taking refuge action against my almost constant fear and regret and self-condemnation and complaining against God. It takes determined effort and is hard, like stopping a train and reversing the direction. But it is making a huge difference. What does that look like? 

When I find myself floundering, when a condemning thought comes into my mind, I remember the Cross of Jesus Christ and make the decision and effort to take refuge in his Word.  

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1 

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:11 

When fear oppresses me, I cling to the promise.  

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3

When, in my rebellious self-life, I start with the complaints, even resentment, against God, I look around for something to be grateful for. I offer up a sacrifice of praise. 

I will sacrifice a thank-offering to you and call on the name of the LORD. Psalm 116:17 

Taking refuge, trusting in God, is crucial in these times we are in, when philosophers and politicians and journalists and marketers clamor for my trust. But it must come from beyond mere head knowledge – I must get out from under my leaky umbrella. My trust in Him must become part of my very being, like breathing. Like the pumping of my heart. I must “do” taking refuge, until I abide there, always leaning against his chest, feeling his sweet breath on the top of my head, listening to the eternal, unstoppable, vehement, passionate, fierce, zealous beating of his mighty heart. 

Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah. Psalm 61:5 (NASB) 

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. Psalm 57:1

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. Psalm 118:8-9

Photo by lars_o_matic on flickr.com https://flic.kr/p/e9V5ZM  

How Long?

He knows that a thousand years may seem like a day to him, but it sure seems like a long time to us.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me. Psalm 13

The beginning words of this Psalm are familiar to me. I have said them a lot in the past 48 years. “How long, Lord? Feeling like I am forgotten, that God has turned away. Especially the “wrestling with my thoughts” part. These verses seem almost scandalously unfaithful – Charles Spurgeon called this the “How long Psalm,” or the “Howling Psalm.” But the words are real. It is how we feel many times. I am so glad that God let them stay in the Bible.

There are many other places, especially in the Psalms, where the Holy Spirit includes these scandalous thoughts and cries. Our being real with God does not bother him. In fact, he loves it when we turn to him and cry out to him, even with doubts in our hearts. Because he knows that a thousand years may seem like a day to him, but it sure seems like a long time to us. And he will respond. His father-heart cannot help but respond. And we can trust in his unfailing love, his chesed. The Psalmist always, somehow, comes back to that trust.

It made me smile when I saw that the Hebrew word chesed, which tries to encompass the kindness and mercy and goodness of God, is translated into Greek as Bethesda – the House of Mercy. This is the name of the pool where they would lay the many disabled people – lame and blind and paralyzed – and they would wait. Wait for the chesed. One man had waited 38 years when Jesus came and healed him. I imagine he may have wondered many times “How long, Lord?”

But sometimes God has to wait for us. Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to become well?” I can hear him adding to himself, “now? Yet? Are you ready?” Because we have much to wrestle with – me in particular. Much anger and resentment and pride and rebellion to fight through and howl about.  But God is there. And he is working in us, whether we can see or feel it or not. He won’t give up on us, even if it takes a thousand years. So, we can say:

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

%d bloggers like this: