Recently I was going through a study presented by Tom Bradford of the Torah Class that really shook me to my core and gave me a much more sober view of my relationship with the Lord. In I Kings 8, you read:
Then Solomon stood before the altar of Adonai in the presence of the whole community of Isra’el, spread out his hands toward heaven, and said, “Adonai, God of Isra’el, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below. You keep covenant with your servants and show them grace, provided they live in your presence with all their heart (I Kings 8:22-23)
Bradford pointed out that different English translations render the beginning of this prayer as: “God of Isra’el, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below. You keep covenant with your servants and show them grace, provided they live in your presence with all their heart.” But then, he added some of the original Hebrew words to the passage! That gave a much greater understanding of what Solomon actually prayed:
Yehoveh, elohim of Israel, there is no elohim like you in shamayim or on eretz. You keep b’rit and chesed with your servants providided they live in your presence with all of their leb.” (I Kings 8:22)
For me, it was significant that Solomon calls on God’s formal name, YHWH, and proclaimed that He was Israel’s god! You see, one of my pet peeves is when someone begins their prayers saying, “Oh God . . .” Well, what god are you calling out to? The God, the “El” of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob does have a name, a name He instructed Moses to use when he called out to Him. The Name, Y-H-W-H (sometimes pronounced: Yehoveh, Jehovah and Yahweh by some) is the one and only God. He is the God of Israel that is revealed in the Bible!
But then Solomon adds that there is “no god who compares to Yehoveh,” in the spiritual sphere of heaven (shamayim) or in the physical sphere of land (the eretz). Then he says that Yehoveh continues to honor the covenants (the b’rit) that he had made with His people and continues to show them loving kindness (chesed). But then Solomon adds a caveat: in order to maintain these covenants and the kindness He has shown His nation of Isra’el they must live in His presence with all of their consciousness.
Huh? What was he saying? Well, the Hebrew word leb literally means “heart,” and as Bradford points out, throughout all of Scripture, heart was thought to be the seat of intellect and consciousness. I know that messes with what some others have told you, but in the Scriptures the heart possessed what we now know takes place in our brains. So where modern thought has turned the word heart into something dealing with feelings and emotions, we miss what is being said in the Scriptures. Use a concordance and search for the word, “Heart.” and read the passages with this new understanding. Read the word heart as pertaining to our conscious thoughts and to the actions and behavior that are the result of those thoughts.
What Solomon was saying is that our God will only show His kindness and bestow the blessings inside those covenants, provided they obey Him and walk in His ways! If they stopped being obedient and walking with him, and the blessings will be yanked, and God’s kindness would turn to strong discipline.
Oh, oh. I hear you saying that is only Old Testament stuff. We live by “Grace,” and our attitudes and behaviors are irrelevant. Well, there is a problem there. If you turn over to Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, you will see something both amazing, but also scarey:
Now if the hallah offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole loaf. And if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you (non-Jews) – a wild olive – were grafted in among them and have become equal sharers in the rich root of the olive tree, then don’t boast as if you were better than the branches! However, if you do boast, remember that you are not supporting the root, the root is supporting you (Romans 11:16-18)
Wow! That is so cool! We have been grafted into the vine of our God’s Tree! Oh, how we love to hear that kind of stuff! But Paul didn’t stop there!
So you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in” (Romans 11:19)
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people tell me that!
True, but so what? They were broken off because of their lack of trust (Romans 11:20)
Yeah, that’s what we have always heard. See, they were bad, so God let us in!
However, [Ooh, I hate hearing ‘however’s’] you keep your place because of your trust. So don’t be arrogant; on the contrary, be terrified! For if God did not spare the natural branches, he certainly won’t spare you!!! [There’s some sobering info we prefer to skip over] So take a good look at God’s kindness and his severity: on the one hand, severity toward those who fell off; but, on the other hand, God’s kindness toward you – provided you maintain yourself in that kindness! Otherwise, you too will be cut off! (Romans 11:20-22)
I don’t know, but you have to believe that Paul had Solomon’s prayer in mind when he wrote those words to a group of gentiles in Rome. We better wake up to the fact that our God’s kindness is conditional, and it is based on maintaining a way that merits His kindness. No, that doesn’t mean we must continually follow the requirements of the Law! What merits such kindness is our Trust and full devotion in Him! Whoa! And how do we demonstrate this trust? Through our obedience to His commandments. It is that simple. Jesus said that if you love me, you will obey me! (John 14:23)
Of course some are going to argue, “Wait a minute! I thought that in our era all we had to do was show trust in God (remember, He does have a name) by trusting his Son? That’s all I have to do is believe in Him.” Well yes, I suppose that is certainly true on one level, but here, Paul is talking to Believers (folks who have already put their trust in Jesus). These are people who have already been grafted in, not to those who were seeking to be grafted in. So this entire section of Romans 11 applies only to the redeemed in Christ, in the same way that Solomon’s prayer applied only to the redeemed of Israel. What I am saying is that Solomon’s blessing is also a not-so-veiled threat, and so was Paul’s!
“Ooh! That sounds like a lot of legalistic mumbo-jumbo. I live under Grace!” Why is it legalistic? It is the response of our love. When my wife returns from working overnight, why do I rub her back? When she had major surgery and after the incision became infected, why was I able to clean out the incision every day ? Why do I try to make sure there is gas in her car? Why do I fix her meals before she goes to work? Why do I make sure she has clean scrubs? In every one of those cases, and others, it is because of love!
Why does my wife watch two of our grand kids after working over night? Why did she take care of me when I broke my ankle and I was confined to the couch? Why did she force herself to transport me in my wheelchair for my Dr. appointments? In every one of those cases, and others, it is because of love!
Why do I pray? Why do I study the Scriptures? Why do I share these messages with you? Why am I grieved when I know I have dishonored my Lord? Why do I seek to obey His instructions? In every on of those cases, and others, it is because of love! I have fallen in love with my Father and there is no mountain too high for me to climb, or river too wide for me to cross if it will bring honor to Him! I love my Lord. That is my motivation for obedience!
In the early days of my faith I was so blessed to see this lived out in the lives of several brothers and sisters. I saw their passion and devotion, and I wanted to experience what they had found! Right now I am thinking of Tom Hemingway and Jan Zuidema. They lived a life of faith and devotion and as a result, they experienced something I didn’t see in every believer, but I hungered to know it for myself. Oh, they probably have no idea the impact they had in my life, because they didn’t teach me a bunch of Bible verses to remember, but instead, demonstrated and lived a life of love and devotion that, although I did not understand it at the time, I wanted to experience it for myself!
Because of what I saw in their lives, I learned to know the voice of my Lord; how to follow His guidance, even when it makes no sense to my natural mind. I saw in their lives, a love and devotion to our King that now allows me to joyfully declare with the prophets, that I have been “imprisoned by hope,” and I stand “entwined in love,” for my Savior!
My intention with each Morning Message is to give you something sobering to consider. I hope to challenge you to hunger and experience the reality of your faith!
Hey! I just remember something I have always done, and I encourage you to do: begin to live with an attitude of anticipation. Begin to actually determine in your heart that each day your relationship with the Lord is going to be better and stronger than the day before.
In fact, begin doing it this morning! Go ahead and determine right now, as you are reading this, that you will, with all that you are, draw closer, and discover an intimacy with your Father. Decide now that you are going to let go of everything that brings you pain, and press forward to obtain that “gold ring!” As Paul wrote, “run to win that which Jesus Christ has already won for [you]! Brothers and sisters, I can’t consider myself a winner yet. This is what I do: I don’t look back, I lengthen my stride, and I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus! (Philippians 3:12-14).
THAT’S what you need to do! Stir yourself up in your most Holy Faith; pray in the Spirit! Begin today, to expect new things to happen. Expect your dreams to come true. Expect your Lord to restore everything you have lost: the passion, your sensitivity to the movements of the Spirit. Begin to expect the Spirit of God to work in your life. It is your attitude; your new determination and expectation and faith that will allow the Spirit work in your life. Don’t continue to sit back and as you are, but set your eyes on the where He intends for you to be!!!
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With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.