One last bit of background before we jump into the verse by verse (mostly) look at the Song.

The Song is a short book as compared to other books like Genesis with its 50 chapters or Isaiah with its 66. It is made up of 8 chapters and a total of 117 verses. It would not be a difficult matter to memorize the entire song.

In this short song, there are 470 unique words used by the author.

  • 47 of these words (fully 10%) are not found anywhere else scripture.
  • 51 are used 5 times or less outside of the Song.
  • 45 are used 6 – 10 times.
  • 27 are used 11-20 times.

That leaves us with 300 common words.

Since this is an ancient language, many of these unique words are not found outside the Song either. For this reason, much of what we understand about this work must be derived by context and interpretation.

As striking as these unique words that fill the book, perhaps more strange is what is missing. There is no mention of God in the Song or any of the normal names for God.  But that is not all. It also does not contain any of the major religious words of the Old Testament, such as glory, mercy-seat, throne, ark, ram, ox, bull, altar, offering, evil, law, faithful, truth, atonement, sin, honor, bless, prophet, save and many more. This Song stands distinct from all other literature in the canon of scripture. This uniqueness tends to explain why there are so many different ways people look at this song, and why we need to keep from being too dogmatic about our approach to it.[i]

My Goals:

  • Each one who reads this blog will take the Song into their own prayer life.
  • We would identify ourselves in the Song.
  • We would each see and sense God’s passion for us.
  • We would each see God’s passion for every believer.
  • Each of us will take steps toward greater spiritual maturity. I would define this as, a passion for working with Christ in His ministry toward others.

Come back next week as we start in earnest to look at this wonderful Song of Songs.


[i] The Song of Solomon – an Introduction and Commentary – G. Lloyd Carr – Intervarsity Press – 1984 pp 41-42

BenHeadshotThanks for reading today.

Come back next week.

See you next week.

Ben

11

Wheat

OK, we have gone long enough talking about the Sabbath, without getting into the Red Letters. Today, I would like to unpack a few of Jesus’ comments about the Sabbath.

The fact is Jesus’ words and actions on and about the Sabbath were a major contributing factors to the Jewish leadership’s hatred for Him.

Let’s jump in.

I want to start with one of Jesus’ most provocative statements:

For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. - Matthew 12:8

This is the end of a story in Matthew 12, one of two piles of trouble Jesus pressed through on a busy Sabbath during His early ministry.

The boys were walking through a grain field, and popping off the heads of the grain in the gleanings and eating them. (Gleanings were the edges of the fields left by the land owners to give the poor and hungry some place to gather food – someday we should talk about God’s welfare plan that included working rather than begging – ooopps did I write that out loud.)

They were breaking so many Sabbath laws – they were “gathering” – they were “preparing food” – they were “eating without washing” – and who knows what else, but they got busted. The Pharisees were right there to point out this problem and quiz the Master.

But Jesus had an answer, three actually. He gave them a theological answer using an example from the life of David. He gave a legal answer, talking about how the priests break the Sabbath in the keeping other laws.

But it all end with Him stating in no uncertain terms “the Son of Man is [aka – I AM] Lord of the Sabbath.” [Tweet This]

Wonder if that got Him in any trouble? Jesus takes on these religious muckety-mucks by simply declaring His own deity.

I hear folks say Jesus never claimed to be God, but you really have to ignore His words to come to that conclusion.

God refers to the Sabbath as “My Sabbath” fifteen times in the Old Testament and yet here Jesus takes ownership, or Lordship over the Sabbath. Jesus is Lord and not just Lord of the Sabbath, although that is a great title for this King of kings and Lord of Lords. He is Lord of all.

Lord Jesus, I worship you today for you are Lord, you are Lord of the Sabbath, and Lord of my life. Have your way today. Reign over this day in my life. – Amen

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.
This study is blessing me a bunch, and I hope it’s doing you some good too.
Come back tomorrow. There is lots more from Jesus, and then we will press on to Paul and the writer to the Hebrews. We are not done yet.
Bye for now
Ben

10

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Let’s try again, to make some simple Old Testament observations around the Sabbath day.

The first actual mention of the word rendered “Sabbath” is in Exodus, when the children of Israel were in the wilderness and God was feeding them with manna.

Moses said, "Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. - Exodus 16:25

On the Sabbath – there was no new manna and the manna from the day before stayed fresh. God was careful to create a culture in which it was necessary to stop the normal day to day tasks and give the day to different things.

Yesterday, we talked about God sanctifying the Sabbath, and today we see that it was, in deed, set apart from other days, because you had to have a different routine. If you had not gathered two days worth of manna on the 6th day, you would be hungry on the Sabbath.

See, the LORD has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." - Exodus 16:29

A little further down the page we read that the Sabbath was given to them. The Sabbath was a gift. I suppose there have been those through the years who have looked askance at this particular gift, but it is none the less, a gift.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. "For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. - Exodus 20:8-11

There were plenty of things that God gave to the people before He gave the law, but not all of them got into the top 10 list. The keeping of the Sabbath is the fourth commandment.

God made it holy, and Israel was commanded to keep it holy.

In his retelling of the law in Deuteronomy 5 Moses adds this bit about Egypt

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day. - Deuteronomy 5:15

Here we get the sense that the Lord is saying, remember the days when you were slaves, and had to work seven days a week for your masters. Now you have been rescued from those evil masters, and as an remembrance and thanks for the one who brought you out of slavery, stop your work for one day every week.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. - Exodus 31:12-13

Next we see that the Sabbath is not only intended to be kept holy or separate from all other days, but the observance of the Sabbath was intended to be a sign between God and Israel which set it apart from all other nations.

I live in Bergen County, New Jersey, in fact the next town over is the famous Paramus, New Jersey. It is famous for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the invention of the shopping mall. I believe the Garden State Plaza was the first shopping mall in the world. But more notable is the fact that though it may well have more major shopping malls than any other town in the country, it also has the most strict blue laws in the nation.

This from Wikipedia:

Bergen County in New Jersey is notable for their blue laws banning the sale of clothing, shoes, furniture, home supplies and appliances on Sundays kept through county-wide referendum. Paramus, New Jersey has its own blue laws even more strict than the county itself, banning any type of worldly employment on Sundays except necessity items such as food and gasoline. Wikipedia: Blue Laws

So then Paramus, New Jersey is set apart from all other shopping destinations on Sunday’s. By the way, it is wonderful to drive on the State Highways in Bergen County on Sundays. Hurray for blue laws!

For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings. - Leviticus 23:3

On the Sabbath there was supposed to be a convocation or meeting, assembly, or the word can even mean reading – such as a public reading of the Word of God.

Every sabbath day he shall set it in order before the LORD continually; it is an everlasting covenant for the sons of Israel. - Leviticus 24:8

God’s intention is for this sanctified day to be remembered as long as time is kept.

There is a very serious story in Numbers about a man caught breaking the Sabbath:

Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day. ... So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. ... "It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, - Numbers 15:32, 36, 39

As we get to the prophets, and as Israel slides further and further away from Father, we have some strong words to consider:

Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies-- I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. - Isaiah 1:13

God is nauseated by the celebration of Sabbath when it was polluted, and not kept holy.

If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day, And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, And honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure And speaking your own word, - Isaiah 58:13

Rather than a holy convocation, it became a day to do their own pleasure, or to continue to work and pad there pockets. [Tweet This] They did not stop and honor the God who gave them the power to be free, the power to get wealth. They simply went about their business, and tipped their hats to God on the Sabbath day, and it made God sick.

Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. - Ezekiel 22:26

I do pray Lord, that I would be found doing your pleasure, everyday, Sabbath included.

Ben NelsonI must ask you to come back tomorrow. Remember, we live in a New Covenant, and I promise there is some good news coming, but for today, this is enough.

See you tomorrow

Ben

6

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It all starts in creation. Sabbath starts when time starts. Before creation, no time, no Sabbath, with the beginning of counting days, we begin marking Sabbaths.

As I mentioned last week, I have been reading a book by Rabbi Daniel Lapin called “Thou Shall Prosper.” It is a business book, but he makes some fascinating observations about the way the orthodox Jew reads and understands scripture.

He makes this awesome point that God’s rest in creation was not a reaction to the hard work of creation, but the culmination of it. He had the Sabbath in mind before He began to create. In Rabbi Lapin’s words, Sabbath was last in creation, but first in thought. It was the goal of creation, not a reaction to it.

That said, what I want to do today is simply share some OT scriptures and briefly highlight some points.

By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. - Genesis 2:2-3

Completed:

I can hear God’s voice saying “It is finished.” But creation is not a painting that will hang on a wall, or sit in an attic. Rather, it is a living, breathing, spinning, glowing, growing, whirling, orbiting, procreating, extravaganza. And when God sits and rests, He is not folding arms across chest, He is interacting with, breathing life into, speaking to, and singing over it with all His considerable heart.

Rested:

This word “rested” is the root word for the Hebrew “Sabbath.” That is basically the topic for the week, so I won't dwell on this sub-point.

Blessed:

Then He blessed the Sabbath – oh how I love the word blessed! You can see just a few verses earlier that God’s blessing is more than a happy wish.

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." - Genesis 1:27-28

As you can see God’s blessing, as I have said before carries with it assignment, authority and ability. God gave Adam and Eve something to do, He gave them the right, the dominion to carry out His instructions and He gave the ability to carry it out. To read more check out “The Three ‘A’s of Blessing.”

So what has He assigned, authorized, and enabled the Sabbath to accomplish? Think on that for a while! Perhaps we can tackle that one on Friday Q&A.

Sanctified:

Next thing to notice is that He sanctified it. He made it holy. He set it apart. He made it district from all other days. Again from the book “Thou Shall Prosper” Rabbi Daniel Lapin says (which I have confirmed here) that in Hebrew, week days do not have their own names with the exception of Sabbath. Just as in creation, they were, and are called the first day, the second day, and so on, with the exception of Sabbath, which is not call the seventh day, but is called REST.

God sanctified it, but He commanded us to keep it holy. As we will see further into the Old Testament, much of the judgment that Israel suffered was because they did not keep the Lord's Sabbath holy, but rather allowed them, these centuries of sabbaths, to be profaned. And how would one profane the Sabbath? Work. Work is the great pollution of this holy day.

Well, I guess I bit off more than I could chew. I was hoping to do the Old Testament in one day, but, in order to keep things from getting way out of control, I will come back to this tomorrow.

For today, let’s meditate on this question. What is the Sabbath commissioned to do in the life of a believer? [Tweet This]

Ben NelsonBlessings on you today

See you tomorrow.

Ben

6

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As I said last week, I have been pondering this idea of Sabbath for a week or so, and spent a few hours looking through the scriptures to see what the Word has to say about this idea.

I have learned that, for one thing, it is of great importance to the Lord.

I have also seen it turn back in on what He has been teaching me (or trying to teach me, anyway) about how to walk out this Christian life.

If you will allow me, I would like to take this week’s blog posts and lay out what I have been finding. If I dump it all into one post, it will be way to big, and I am afraid it would be too hard to follow.

The danger I face with breaking it up is that you may only get a snippet of the whole idea. Ah – What’s a blogger to do?

Ben NelsonSee you in the morning for an Old Testament survey of the Sabbath.

Ben

10

Shine

I have heard a number of things recently that have caused me to take a fresh look at the idea of Sabbath. I want to ponder them aloud today for a couple minutes. I have a hunch that buried in these thoughts is a paradigm shift that could be very freeing.

The first thought comes from a few months back, and I don’t even know where I heard it at this point, but the idea is that the Sabbath rest that God enjoys, upon the completion of creation, is not one of wiping His brow and collapsing in some recliner cloud in the back room of heaven to watch reruns of some 80’s sitcom.

Rather the “rest” God enjoys upon completion of creation is more like the day an inventor reveals his masterpiece, and glories in how awesome it is. For a truly carnal, but perhaps graspable example think of Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone. [See that here.]

The second idea that has been floating around in the chaos of my mind regarding Sabbath is something Rabbi Daniel Lapin says in his book “Thou Shall Prosper.” Being an orthodox rabbi he brings much of the traditional orthodox Jewish understanding of the Old Testament to the table, and it is fascinating.

Speaking about Sabbath he says that in creation, Sabbath was last in execution, but first in thought. To put it another way Sabbath was not what God did when He finished creating, but it was the culmination of that creation. You might even say, it was what He was building.

When an architect creates the plans for a house, I don’t believe he first draws a sketch of plumbing and wiring, and then pictures walls enclosing the infrastructure. When someone asks me about my dream house, I don’t say, I want outlets in each room, and in the bathroom it is important that there me a drain, and piping to carry the waste water out to the septic system. Oh – so we will need a septic system, and a water source, and an electrical box to bring the electric in. Then I should probably put walls around all that to hide it from view….

No – I picture a house, probably first from the outside, with land and landscaping, and I picture rooms, furnished. Then an architect would back into the infrastructure needed to support this house – foundation, structure, wiring, pluming and all the other stuff that I would never think of.

So it was with God or so this line of thought goes. He sees the end from the beginning, and the end is His creation in place, and Him enjoying it, and participating in it, in partnership with those who He created.

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; - Isaiah 46:10

I will come back to this idea again next week, and play it out a bit more.

Thanks for listening to my ruminating. I hope it gets you pondering too.

Ben NelsonHave a blessed thanksgiving.

Enjoy God.
Enjoy family.
Enjoy food.

Ben

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Please note - the book link to amazon is an affiliate link.

5

Many Waters - SoS header

The Shepherd King has been silent in the Song for quite a while. We have not heard His voice in the Song since the middle of chapter two when He was wooing her to come with Him, out into the hills and mountains, out of the cocoon and into ministry, out into the fulfilling of her initial prayer, “Draw me, and we will run.”

Now that He has demonstrated in no uncertain terms His incomparable ability to protect and defend her, and care for her needs, He is going to speak into her life.

So I ask Jesus today, what do you see in me? He steps closer and replies:

How beautiful you are, my darling,
How beautiful you are!
Your eyes are like doves behind your veil;
Your hair is like a flock of goats
That have descended from Mount Gilead.

Your teeth are like a flock of newly shorn ewes
Which have come up from their washing,
All of which bear twins,
And not one among them has lost her young.

Your lips are like a scarlet thread,
And your mouth is lovely.
Your temples are like a slice of a pomegranate
Behind your veil.

Your neck is like the tower of David,
Built with rows of stones
On which are hung a thousand shields,
All the round shields of the mighty men.

Your two breasts are like two fawns,
Twins of a gazelle
Which feed among the lilies.

Song of Songs 4:1-5 NASB

His answer rocks me, because He sees in me, what I can’t even see myself, and more than that, He sees in me the design of my Maker. When Jesus looks at me He sees what I am created for, He sees my potential! He sees how the Father knit me together from various skeins, with strands of talent, and various colors of passions and desires.

He speaks into my life what it can look like. He sees my love for Him and my care for what pleases Him as mature, not as they are today.

So what does He see in me? What does He see in you?

You are beautiful!

We understand that because of the cross of Christ, we have been washed, we are clean. That which was so ugly in us, that which pursued Christ to His horrible death, is gone. Your sin is not what Jesus sees when He looks at you. Your sin is not your defining character trait. Your sin does not even enter into the conversation, when Jesus is describing you.

As Solomon’s Song describes eyes, hair, teeth, lips, mouth temples, neck and breasts, those things that create a vision of great physical beauty, Jesus is looking at seven areas of inner beauty, and draws us to Himself, and to our own potential.

So what does He see in me? What does He see in you?

Dove’s eyes:

What Jesus sees in our eyes is faithfulness. One thing that sets the dove apart from many other birds is it’s monogamy, it mates for life, it is uniquely faithful.

The other aspect of a dove’s eyes that is significant is that that dove has a sort of tunnel vision. It can only focus on one thing, and has virtually no peripheral vision.

So the Lord looks at us, and counts us faithful to Him, to have eyes only for Him. The call to the maiden is to fix your eyes on Jesus.

If you are new to Song of Songs Saturday, you might want to check out the post from earlier this year that goes into much more depth about dove’s eyes here.

Long Flowing Hair:

Aside from bringing attention to her youth and vigor, this reference to her long flowing hair harkens back to the Nasserites of the Old Testament. These men would completely dedicate themselves to the Lord for a period of time. During the time of their vow, they would not cut their hair or shave. They would also stay away from the fruit of the vine, and keep away from anything that could make them unclean. They were considered holy unto the Lord for that season.

Jesus is seeing in the maiden a dedication to Him and the life and ministry that He had created for her/them to walk in together.

Teeth:

It interests me how focused He is on her mouth. There are actually three features of her mouth that attract Jesus, and draw out His comments.

The first is her teeth. I am pretty sure, though I have not done primary research on this fact, that in the day of Solomon, the better part of a millennium before Christ, dentistry was not what it is today. To find a woman with a full mouth of bright white teeth, each one with its match on the bottom, and its companions on each side would be fairly remarkable all by itself.

But the real point here is the function of teeth. Her teeth speak of her ability to eat. It sounds funny as a romantic comment this way, but the idea is that it is beautiful to the Lord when we chew on, or meditate on His Word. The word used for meditate in the Old Testament give the idea of the cow chewing it’s cud. In Psalm 1, David contrasts the blessed man to the one who does not embrace the Word. He says of the one who is blessed, that he meditates, or chews on, the law of the Lord day and night.

Lips:

Lips speak of her speech, and the strand of scarlet points to the fact that her speech is redemptive. It is said that there is a scarlet thread that runs through the Bible from front to back. This gospel thread is God’s redemptive plan devised from before the Father breathed the breath of life into Adam.

This scarlet thread is first seen when the blood of an animal was shed to cover the nakedness and shame of Adam and Eve in the garden. Notably, when Israel attacked Jericho, Rahab was instructed to hang a scarlet threat out her window as a sign that she and her household were chosen, and so they were saved. So these scarlet lips are lips that constantly speak the gospel and share the redemptive message of life.

Mouth:

Here we look at another use for the mouth. One character trait that distinguishes a Christian is his vocabulary of praise. The praises of our mouth are so attractive to the Lord that it beckons His presence in our lives. Consider:

Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful. - Psalms 147:1 NKJV

and said to Him, "Do You hear what these children are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself'?" - Matthew 21:16 NASB

And thou art holy, thou that dwellest amid the praises of Israel. - Psalms 22:3 DBY

As you can see from these passages, praise is beautiful, attractive to the Lord. He is drawn to it, dwells in the midst of it. Psalm 100 tell us that it is our method of entry into the presence of the Lord.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise. - Psalms 100:4 NASB

Temples:

Her temples or cheeks display our emotion, or passion for Him. There is still an excitement, a thrill in our heart when we see Him.

There is a convicting passage in Jeremiah that speaks of Israel’s spiritual leadership, and how they were not helping the flock, but rather placating them with empty words. In the midst of this rebuke is this declaration:

Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done?
They were not even ashamed at all;
They did not even know how to blush. –

Jeremiah 6:15 NASB

This may be the other side of the equation, but the heart of the Lord for us is that we would be able to feel – feel passion for Him – feel the hurt and need of those around us – and feel our own need for Him when we fall, so we would run back to Jesus for restoration.

Neck:

Our neck speaks of our will. The neck turns our head, and so sets our direction. The inclination of our neck toward the face of our Savior, demonstrates our will to follow Him.

In the writing of the prophets, Israel is spoken of as having a stiff neck, meaning it’s will was set against Him. Here we see just the opposite, She has strength of will, but it is turned toward Him. Even when she was resistant to obedience, her desire was toward him

Solomon says of her neck that it is built as an armory (NKJV) and set about with the shields of a thousand men. Her resolve is set toward Him. There is no shadow of turning in her will.

I love that He speaks this prophetically into her life right on the heals of a fall and a failing of her will. If you will remember with me:

  • She wanted to follow Him
  • He invited her to follow Him
  • She was fearful and pulled back

But here what He sees in her is a will that is set only on Him. I love that the Lord looks at us and sees His design for us, and His character in us, as we walk out a life that ebbs and flows.

Breasts:

Ok – honestly – the fact that Solomon mentions breasts in the Song is why a huge chunk of the church does not look at the Song. But let’s not be shy here.

There are two senses in which Solomon speaks of her breasts. Sometimes he speaks of her ability and desire to nurture, but here he is speaking of pure beauty. Jesus highlights the beauty of the Christian life, when grace and truth are in equal measure. John 1:14 says of Jesus.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14

This marriage of grace and truth, of mercy and judgment, create a tension through out the Word, and when they are in equal measure they are beautiful.

Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other. - Psalms 85:10

It is a beautiful picture of our Lord. And this is what He is looking for, and sees, in us. He wants His people to be a people in whom Mercy and Truth dwell in equal measures, neither one trumping the other. When truth rules without mercy, we miss the Spirit of the law, and when mercy reigns without the restraint of the truth, we have lawlessness, and lasciviousness.

Another beautiful paring in the Christian life would be faith and love. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13, it does not matter how great our faith it, without love we are just noise. The writer to the Hebrew Christians tells us, right on the other hand, that without faith it is impossible to please God.

These marks of the blending of seeming opposites are what bring true beauty into the life of a Christian.

I know there is a lot to chew on here, but I hope you will here the Lord’s voice calling out in you the beauty that He has given you, and called you to. He sees you as you will be, not as you are today, and there is great hope in that calling.

You are beautiful! Take a step back today, and see yourself the way that Jesus sees you.

  • Faithful
  • Devoted
  • Given to His word
  • Ministering life
  • Full of Praise
  • Full of Passion
  • Will set on Him
  • Full of grace and truth – faith and love

Can you see it? He does!

Sorry for the length of this post. I know it is way more than usual. I hated to break this passage us, though I suppose many more people would have been likely to read smaller pieces. Thank you for reading all of it.

Ben NelsonHave a great weekend.

Stay Calm and Keep Shining!

Ben

 

6

Sometimes cousins can be really different. Here I am showing my age, but do you remember the Patty Duke show? Two teenage cousins who looked exactly alike, but were different in every way – one wild and free, one poised and governed by self control.

The Bible gives us a set of cousins who are likewise considerably different.

'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon!' "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds. - Matthew 11:17-19

How can these two men, John the Baptist and Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God and Son of man, how can they both be servants of the Most High God, and yet be so different?

That’s what the disciples of John wanted to know, and that’s what the Pharisees wanted to know.

There is one area where they were the same.

They did not dance to the world’s tune.

The world is always trying to get us to compromise what the Lord has put before us.

John came as the final chapter of the Old Covenant. His was the closing hymn, the final chord, of a grand mournful requiem. He came preaching and demonstrating the crushing weight of unrepentant sin, and demanding that men change, and then come to be baptized.

So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? "Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. - Luke 3:7-8

Don’t get me wrong, Jesus preached repentance too. I am not saying that repentance is not part of the Christian walk.

But unlike John, who dressed in an itchy shirt, ate bugs and cried in the wilderness, Jesus sat at the dinner table with all kinds of sinners.

There are two very different dinner tables we read of in the life of Jesus, Levi’s table, with tax collectors and sinners, and Simon’s table, with Pharisees and the religious elite.

These are the same two types of people that came out to John.

Neither group could influence either man.

They played the wedding march for John, but he preached a funeral message in the wilderness.

They played a funeral dirge for the Lord, and He drew them to a wedding feast.

How does the world’s tune influence you?

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to play the Christian life to the tune the world is playing, but I suggest to you today, that you tune your dial to the song of heaven.

What music would heaven have you dance to today.

Lord, help me hear from You what song You are singing over me, and let me live my life to Your rhythm. [Tweet This]

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by today.

See you again soon.

Shine today!

Ben

 

I have to tell you, it’s another Red Letter Day today and I want to talk with you about some pretty serious Red letters. Jesus said:

But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’

He was at a reception at the house of His new friend and follower Matthew. The place was crawling with the lowest of the low in the day’s Jewish economy.

When the Pharisees begin complaining about this He gives them this quote from the prophet Hosea to think about. Here is His full comment:

It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." ~ Matthew 9:12-13

To tell a Pharisee “go and learn” is quite a slap in the face. These are the men who have spent their life learning. These are the scholars of the day. As I understand it they were required to memorize most, if not all of what we call the Old Testament, certainly all of the books of Moses.

These men knew the law, and kept it. When God demanded 1 tenth of their increase, they would apply it right down to mint leaves, and cumin seeds, one for God and nine for me.

But they did not have compassion.

You see righteousness man’s way leads to a rigid and judgmental heart. When we define a relationship with God in terms of the keeping of the Law, we end up with a system that is always comparing.

A system based on who makes the biggest sacrifice leave everyone a loser. The one who has the least to give feels worthless, the one in the middle falls short, and the one on the top gets puffed up with pride.

A system based on compassion on the other hand makes everyone a winner. If you dare to open your heart to those around you, you will find that your offering of love may take empower the recipient and the giver.

When I say offering, I am not necessarily talking about a money offering.

What does compassion give?

Friendship
Shelter
Protection
Equipping
Resources

What would you add to the list?

Let’s get free of this stinking sacrificial system. The sacrifice has been made – Jesus – once and for all. Our job is to LOVE, to have Compassion and Mercy, to offer Grace.

Ben NelsonLearn what that means!

See you again soon

Ben

akabarley – Firstfruits?

Part Three of a study of 1 Corinthians 15:12-34

Depending on the translation you use, the word ‘but’ shows up 15 times in 1 Corinthians 15, and 8 of them are the first word of a sentence. (based on the NASB)

The one in verse 20 is my favorite though.

Time to Celebrate

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:20

That’s a place to shout! HALLELUJAH!

Firstfruits

Now Paul mentions this idea of firstfruits. I heard a well know Christian speaker say the other day that firstfruits means the tithe. Hey, I believe the tithe should come off the top of your income, or increase. But in the Old Testament, the Firstfruits offering was actually an offering given during Passover week.

Since sin was covered by the killing of the Passover lamb, this was not a sin offering. Rather it was an offering of faith and thanksgiving. During Passover week they would bring a sheaf of barley, the first grain up, and offer it. It had to be the first gathering of their year’s planting.

Obviously there was an element of thanksgiving. Thank you Lord that the land you have given, again has produced sustenance for me!

Primarily it was a faith offering. It required trust and faith, because to give the very first that come up, is to say, I am not going to hoard this for fear that no more will come. Rather I am going to freely give it to God with open hands, trusting that He will provide a full harvest. Trusting that He will supply rain and sun and feed the soil as I till it, work it, and gather it.

My wife and I many years ago got in the habit of offering first fruits offering any time we stepped into a new venture. It was a way of saying, Lord, I trust you to take what little I have  now, and press it down, shake it together, and cause it to run over in my life.

But as God is want to do, there is a deeper meaning behind this beautiful offering of grain.

Let’s start with Jesus, a few short days before He would face the cross.

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. ~ John 12:23-24

It is easy to see in retrospect that He was talking about His own burial.

Then comes the end of the week. On the Preparation day, the day the precedes the Passover, Jesus has this meal with the 12, He washes their feet, and gives them the wonderful gift of the Lord’s Supper.

He is crucified, and there is a point made of getting Him off the cross and into the tomb before the Passover.

I want to you to think for a moment about what the Jews did with the blood of the Passover lamb. They took it and put it in a basin, and then took a bunch of hyssop and brushed it across the top of the door, and on the doorposts.

I love the picture below because it makes the point by connecting the dots. The Passover is a picture of Jesus, The Door, on the Cross, or should I say the Cross on the Door.

cross-blood-on-doorAs I have said before the narrow way to the Father is one man wide – just as wide as the cross.

But that is not the end of Passover week, only the beginning. The part that most Christians may not know is the offering of the firstfruits came on the first day after the Sabbath during Passover week, in other words, on Sunday morning. (See Leviticus 23:11)

And what happened Sunday Morning? Jesus rose from the dead – the firstfruit of many brethren.

Jesus resurrection is a demonstration that you will rise from the dead if you are in Christ.

Does that make you happy? When I saw that the resurrection was yet another fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system, I was overwhelmed by my great God’s plan. And Paul’s many references to firstfruits take on a completely new meaning.

But wait, there’s more.

Ben NelsonSo come back tomorrow for another helping.

See you then

Ben