When you think of the psalms of the Bible, think “Jewish song lyrics,” because that is what they are. The psalms were meant to be sung out loud, which is why you’ll find the occasional bit of musical instruction thrown in. The ancient Jews were a very theatrical people who valued the public sharing of personal emotions. So while you might have a hard time picturing why a guy like David would want to broadcast his personal cry for Yahweh to give him a clean heart after his rebellious stint with Bathsheba, realize that Psalm 51 wouldn’t be in the Bible today unless David chose to share that private prayer with his royal staff. Continue reading
Yahweh told Moses, “When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go. Then you will tell him, ‘This is what Yahweh says: Israel is My firstborn son. I commanded you, “Let my son go, so he can worship Me.” But since you have refused, I will now kill your firstborn son!’”
On the way to Egypt, at a place where Moses and his family had stopped for the night, Yahweh confronted Moses and was about to kill him. But Moses’ wife, Zipporah, took a flint knife and circumcised her son. She touched his feet with the foreskin and said, “Now you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” (When she said “a bridegroom of blood,” she was referring to the circumcision.) After that, Yahweh left Moses alone. (Ex. 4:21-26)
Moses was a Jew. Jews knew that they were descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They also knew that the God of their ancestors (Yahweh) gave special promises to Abraham’s descendants–promises which included gaining residence in some lush patch of land (which was called the Promised Land or Canaan). Yahweh said these promises were part of a Covenant, and that all of His male followers had to get circumcised as a means of declaring their association with Him under that Covenant. Continue reading
We have three glorious Gods and everything about Them is endlessly fascinating. The more we know about Them, the more we want to know. But it’s also easy to feel totally overwhelmed by Them. They are so vast, so infinitely complex. When it comes to getting even the most basic understanding of who They are, where do we start? Surely there must be some facts about Themselves that They want us to learn about sooner rather than later. If only They would give us a short list of a few characteristics which They consider to be particularly important, that would give us a great place to begin. Happily, the magnificent Yahweh does exactly this for us in the Old Testament. Continue reading
In our previous lesson, we learned that when Yahweh chose Israel to be His special nation, He wanted her to stand out from the rest of the world in ways that would attract other nations towards her and entice them to know more about the God she worshiped. And when people started asking about the God of Israel, Yahweh wanted to make it clear that He wasn’t just another dumb idol with limited powers who could be manipulated by human beings. Yahweh was the one true God—the Sovereign Authority, the Supreme Power who could pulverize every other idol in existence anytime He wanted to. Having already proved His supremacy over all the gods of Egypt through the ten plagues, it was now time for Yahweh to teach Israel how to revere Him properly. By the middle of Exodus—which our first book in this four book period—God has taken Israel out to a barren wilderness where she will have no other nations around to distract her. And it is in this barren place that He decides to appear to His chosen people in a very personal way.
The symbol of a snake coiled around a stick is recognized worldwide as an icon of healing and hope. This symbol gets its origins from the biblical account of God instructing Moses to make a bronze snake and attach it to the top of a tall pole. Just by turning to look at the snake, people who were bitten by poisonous snakes would be miraculously healed. But now let’s take some time to learn why God commanded such a bizarre thing in the first place. Continue reading
At last the Israelites have reached the Promised Land, also known as the land of Canaan. At this point they’ve been in the wilderness for over two years. Naturally everyone’s eager to get a report of what this new land is like and that calls for a bit of spying. Moses chooses twelve men to go check things out—one man from every tribe except the tribe of Levi, which had been set apart for God. Moses tells them to come back with a full report about the natives in the land, their military power, and the land’s farming potential.
After forty days of sneaking around, the twelve spies return to Israel’s camp bearing samples of the land’s produce: grapes, figs and pomegranates. They confirm that Yahweh was right when He said the place was “flowing with milk and honey.” This phrase implies healthy, productive land. The “milk” is a reference to grazing animals like cattle. To “flow with milk,” a land must be rich enough to support large herds. The honey refers to the presence of bees. Bees pollinate and play a critical part in making lush vegetation thrive. Anywhere that “flows with milk and honey” is going to be paradise for an agricultural nation like Israel. Continue reading
Imagine standing alone in a huge desert. Suddenly the sky is filled with a thunderous noise as millions upon millions of birds come flying into view. There are so many birds that their massive swarm blocks out your view of the sky. Then, suddenly, the birds start falling down from the sky as if they are caught in some powerful wind. They fall so fast and in such great numbers that they start piling up on top of each other until the pile of their flapping bodies is three feet high. Now you’re standing in the middle of a circular sea of birds, and you’re getting a sense of what the Israelites felt like in Numbers 11.
Yahweh sent a strong wind from the sea, and it blew quail into the area all around the camp. The quail were about three feet deep on the ground, and there were quail a day’s walk in any direction. (Num. 11:31)