In the Beginning

Genesis 1:1-6:8

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

In the very beginning it was Yahweh’s intention to create beings that would partake of His goodness by entering freely into an eternal relationship with Him and His son Jesus. When He said, “Let us make man in our image…”, He did not mean we would have a head and torso and arms and legs, but that we would be holy and blameless, conformed to the image of His Son. Like Jesus, we would walk in the power of love; we would understand the supernatural and be able to engage with heavenly beings. The fullness of His plan would yield persons so fully given over to the Kingdom of Love that the beauty of His nature would forever reproduce in them.

It is commonly believed that the Creator of the Universe started something that seemed to be a good idea but, having been outwitted by Satan, was unable to bring it to completion. Because Eve was deceived and Adam chose wrongly, God’s wonderful world has fallen into a great heap of suffering and confusion. So, like a burgeoning company that has outgrown its founder, it flails and thrashes, looking for identity and job security, installing and removing leaders, hoping against hope that someone with enough vision will make things even a little bit better. In spite of the fact that most perceive the situation as a great mistake, God’s beloved children grovel faithfully before Him, attempting to make their way through with as much law-abiding dignity as their circumstances allow.

This way of thinking makes us victims of God’s failings; though we aren’t directly responsible for getting ourselves into this mess, we somehow became responsible to get ourselves out of it. How ridiculous is that? God has never demanded that we work our way out of our bad choices or maneuver ourselves into His good graces. Relationships of this type are exhausting.

If however, God created the Garden of Eden with the fall of man in mind, then He is responsible for all of it. If He is completely Sovereign, if He is the Alpha and Omega, if all things are His servants, if He is the author and finisher of our faith, then all that is happening in the world—including our failures and our suffering—is ultimately His doing. Our response to God’s amazing plan of redemption need only be to give ourselves fully over to His transformational process: “Let us make man in our image…” He will use our past and future to bring this about. Like a flash of lightening illuminates the sky and for one glorious moment casts into brilliance all that exists, so will the meaning of our lives come into focus when we see the simplicity of God’s original intention!

Jesus has taken ALL the responsibility for every wrong choice from the beginning of time till now. For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. He died to bring about the ultimate will of the Father, making it possible for ALL to enter into the glorious process of transformation. We have been predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, and we all…beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.

Reflection Questions

  1. Considering the state of this world, how can we conclude God is both Sovereign and good?
  2. How does aligning our self with God’s plan for creation change my view of my life?
  3. What does it mean to be transformed?

This devotional isn’t a comprehensive Torah commentary. It only identifies themes that point to and reveal Yahweh’s Kingdom, Power, and Glory.

By Tamara Jeane

 

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This Is The Blessing

Torah Portion: Deuteronomy 33:1– 34:12

(34:4) And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.”

This week’s Torah portion entitled, “This is the Blessing,” records God’s last words to Moses before his death. It was not the first time Yahweh told Moses that he would not be permitted to lead Israel into the great Land of Promise. They had spoken much on the subject previously, to the point that God finally said, do not speak of this matter to me again. And now, before he died, Moses would be led up to Mt. Nebo to see the only earthly view of the Promised Land he would ever have.

Moses had been a surrogate father and mother to a young Israelite nation for forty years. Having been appointed by Yahweh to rescue them from slavery, he had, in accordance with the instructions given him, led them by the hand through quite an array of trials. He taught them how to live by the Torah, trained up priests and leaders and guided an entire growing nation with great humility and wisdom. And as any parent does, he endured complaints, accusations and tantrums rooted in immaturity and rebellion.

In one particular instance, Moses reacted to this rebellion in opposition to God’s instructions. It happened in the wilderness of Zin when there was no water to be found. As seemed most often to be the case, when Israel found themselves in dire straights, they lost faith and began accusing God of leading them into the desert to die. In response, God chose to ignore their complaints and provide the water they needed. He commanded Moses to speak to the Rock in the presence of the people in order to bring forth water to satisfy their thirst and so demonstrate His grace and provision. Instead, grossly misrepresenting God, Moses spoke to the children, shaming them for their behavior, and then struck the Rock. For this, he was severely disciplined by being denied entrance to the Promised Land.

This was a hard blow for Moses, but it was not the end of the story. Yahweh continued to honor him while preparing another who would lead Israel over the Jordan. And Joshua was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.

How carefully Yahweh watched over His own to keep His covenant! Though Moses would not be permitted to lead his children to the point of possession, he was shown the land from afar so he might see with his eyes the hope and the future for Israel. Joshua then took the charge and successfully brought each tribe to their inheritance.

Moses wanted the best for these children of God, but even the best parents make mistakes. Sometimes the mistakes are grave, and the resulting distorted views of God experienced by the children have serious consequences. But even in the worst of situations, there will be provision made. God’s promises far outshine our errors as parents, and He will stay true to His covenant. As in the case of Moses, another servant may be appointed the privilege of taking children and loved ones over the threshold to their inheritance. The God of the spirits of all flesh is well able to command this charge, even after our hope wanes. Just as Joshua brought the children of Israel into their place of rest, so will our Joshua, Jesus, faithfully shepherd us there, and our children. Today is the day we can rest in this promise.

Who is the man who fears the Lord…His soul shall abide in well-being and his offspring shall inherit the land.

By Tamara Jeane

Give Ear

Torah Portion: Deuteronomy 32:1– 52

(32:31) For their rock is not as our Rock.

This week’s Torah portion is only one chapter long, and is different from all the others. In it we find a song exhorting the people of Yahweh to walk with Him. It tells of the doting kindness of the Lord towards Israel; how He kept them as the apple of His eye, and how they rejected His love by being unmindful of Him and finally turning away to gods they had never known. He warns of His jealousy and the disaster they will face should they choose to turn away from all He had provided. He is sickened and angered to see them place their hope in futility. It is a very important witness between God and His people for the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.

And so Moses, after prophesying the worst terrors to punish their abominable practices, sings of the hope of Israel, the merciful and long suffering Rock who will save them from their sins. For the Lord will vindicate His people and have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free. Then He will say, “Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge?” These gods, who took from them, ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offerings, left them with nothing, empty and unprotected. They were brought to the end of themselves and left to die. Yahweh then calls them His people and explains that He will rescue at any cost.

We say it is a fearful thing to stand between a mother bear and her cubs. How much more does this passage help us understand how fiercely the Lord will fight for Israel! There is no one who can stand in the way of His faithful devotion – and His judgment of those who hurt His children. He promises that He will vindicate His own.

Of the imagery used for God in this song, none stands out as clearly as this – it was Jesus who was the Rock in the Wilderness! They drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. He was their provision and supernaturally sustained them through their trials. He was the Rock who conquered the Land; He was the Rejected Rock, and when judgment falls on the last of Israel’s enemies, He will be the Rock who will crush them.

Let our entire hope rest on the One who has everything we need and long for. Our Rock Yeshua, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge is coming to set up His glorious Kingdom of peace and security, righteousness and justice. May we live for that time, refusing to bow to the cultural idols of today, gods that have come recently, and to the many temptations that would distract us. They have nothing to give; their rock is not as our Rock.

By Tamara Jeane

You Are Standing

Torah: Deuteronomy 29:10 – 31:30

(30:11) For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off…

In this week’s Torah portion called “You Are Standing” we are reminded that the intentions of Yahweh remain operative; that regardless of the detours Israel may choose to take, they will be brought to the place where they are able to receive and steward a life of blessing and prosperity. It is the delight of the Lord to bring us near Him and so He will.

Before we can understand the means by which the Torah will bring about the blessings of our inheritance, we must accept that in our fallen, sinful state we are not able to receive and manage blessing. An immature, rebellious child cannot rightfully manage an inheritance, no matter the provision. Even if guiding laws are put in place with mentors provided to explain them, and wise investment opportunities present themselves along with warnings given for obvious risks, if that child will not come into agreement with the terms and provisions made for him, he will soon be living as if there were no inheritance at all. Whether the birthright is stolen by false teachers, or used up by friends or even just gradually frittered away, in the end there will be nothing to show for it but loss.

It is both foolish and arrogant to believe we are able to obtain and govern such a great inheritance as Yahweh has promised without the necessity of considerable tutelage. There is much to learn about how to step honorably into our rightful place, and we must be educated on the practice of outwitting our lurking enemies. Freedom demands accountability and responsibility. We must not make excuses about the difficulties of learning the lessons of privilege. Jesus, the firstborn of all creation, exemplified that adherence to the Torah was a natural part of the everyday life of the children of promise. There is nothing in His teachings to suggest that obedience to God’s law was difficult, unrealistic or inapplicable.

Yet He was repeatedly challenged by those who refused to live by faith; they made pleasing God hard and complicated. They lived a life of anxiety, performing their tasks so others could see, thinking they would be accepted or condemned based their own successes or failures. Jesus shined the light on their problem; you search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life…yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

Our beloved Yeshua, the Light of the World, has gone before us to show the way. Obedience was natural to Him and as we look to Him for Life, obedience will become natural to us. Let us be patient in the process; learning how to steward our inheritance will take time. Disciples learn to surrender yielded hearts to the Father just as Jesus did. As a result, the beautiful covenant promises of the Torah actually become an inherent part of us and the joy of obedience will naturally and quite easily flow from our heart.

It is not in heaven…neither is it beyond the sea…but the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart so that you can do it.

By Tamara Jeane

 

 

When You Come

Torah Portion: Deuteronomy 26:1-29:9

(26:10,11) “…And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O LORD, have given me.” And you shall set it down before the LORD your God and worship before the LORD your God. And you shall rejoice in all the good that the LORD your God has given to you…

In this week’s Torah portion “When You Come,” we see God reveal the relationship between faith and thanksgiving. The promised blessing of fruitfulness to the Israelites was contingent on their faith worked out in obedience. God’s heart for His people was that they would share the joyous occasion of thanksgiving even before they experienced the fullness of His promises.

The Israelite’s inherited land was lush and fertile, promising them a bountiful harvest. God gave orders to gather up the first of the fruit of the fields and take it to His chosen place as an offering unto Him. While standing before the altar of the Lord, they were to remember and recite back to Him the many acts of His faithfulness to them. This offering, known as the First Fruits Offering, was an act of faith; it acknowledged God’s present provision and their trust in His future provision. The offering was complete when their hearts were filled with genuine worship, rejoicing in the provision of their gracious Father.

God desires that His people be formed into His image and so shares with them the joy of giving. The offering of first fruits was an occasion for His people to participate in this blessing of faith. God freely gave to them, and now they had an opportunity to freely give to Him. The desire to surrender the first of their harvest was an indication that they trusted God to provide all their needs. Those who had the heart of the father would offer up their gifts with worship and thanksgiving.

The heart of thanksgiving in the life of Jesus and His ministry serves as a further example of the Father’s heart. Although crowds pressed in, Jesus was never greedy with His time and space, but willingly did His Father’s bidding. He never demanded submission to His authority, but let go of the rights due Him as the Son of God. Neither did He hold onto His life, but offered it entirely, even unto death on the cross. Jesus’ life was the perfect picture of complete surrender and gratitude. He understood well the provision of His Father and was therefore able to endure the cross with joy knowing the totality of God’s plan

We too, can experience the Father’s heart of thanksgiving, when we step back and remember the great deeds He has done in our lives. As we reflect upon the saving blood of Jesus, we see that we have much to be thankful for. The Lord has provided the seed and has caused it to grow in the fertile soil of our lives. We offer up to Him our time, finances, reputations, and entitlements in joyful worship, trusting that He will provide for our every need. When we follow the example of Jesus, embracing the Father’s heart as our own, surrendering our lives to be formed into His image, we will receive in return the reward of joy and thanksgiving.

By Brooke

When You Go

Torah Portion: Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19

(21:22-23) “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed of God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.”  

God provided the Israelites with detailed instruction for the holiness of their community; the punishment for rebellion, rape, and murder of innocent blood was death; marriage outside the Israelite community was forbidden; vows were required to be kept, and justice and equity was to be provided to the weak and vulnerable. The land itself was to be kept to a high standard of sanitary cleanliness as needed for holiness. The scripture states, “because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp…therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.” Much effort and responsibility was required to maintain the standard of holiness God’s presence mandated.

Yet, from the time of the fall, God’s desire was to restore intimacy, and it was His promise to provide the means for reconciliation. God, knowing the frailty and unfaithfulness of the human heart, understood that creation could not carry the weight of responsibility for the restoration by itself. The need for holiness remained; obedience to God’s instruction was still required, but the weight of the responsibility would have to be given to another; a messiah was needed to close the chasm left by sin.

Prophetically, God reveals through this week’s Torah portion, the way the coming Messiah would make restitution: “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree…you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God.” Jesus, having no guilt of his own, offered himself in place of the cursed, bearing the punishment of death that sin required. Paul, author of Galatians writes, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming the curse for us- for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” Although Jesus was buried on the day of his death, He rose victoriously because death had no power over his perfect sacrifice

The consequence of our sin is the same today as it was when God resided with His people in the Promised Land. We are responsible for our disobedience and the price for sin is death. But we need not fear condemnation, for our Messiah has borne the guilt of our sin. He carries what is impossible for us to carry. When we trust in His sacrifice the curse of our failures has no hold over us. God’s promise endures; He dwells in intimacy with those who abide in Jesus.   

By Brooke

Judges

Torah Portion: Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9

(19:2-4) “…you shall set apart three cities for yourselves in the land the Lord is your God is giving you to possess. You shall measure the distances and divide them into three parts the area of the land that the Lord gives you as a possession, so that any manslayer can flee to them. This is the provision of the manslayer, who by fleeing there may save his life.”  

We continue to see the nurturing heart of the father throughout this week’s Torah portion, “Judges.” God, desiring that his children walk in blessing, continues to fashion laws and guidelines that set His chosen people apart from the nations. The inherited land was to be governed with justice, and be free from partiality. There was to be no greed or perversity. They were not to defile the land with innocent blood, and provision was to be made for the weak and the voice of the innocent was to be heard. We see the father’s value for the human life through the giving of detailed instructions for His children to follow.

One of God’s provisions made for the nation of Israel was the city of refuge. These cities were to be dispersed evenly amongst the land, providing a safe haven for those who unintentionally took another’s life. In the case of an accidental killing, the manslayer would run to the city where he would find protection and justice. The city of refuge would offer shelter from the anger of any accuser coming to take vengeance over the spilled blood. However, the life of the manslayer was only safe while inside the boundaries of this particular city. To move outside this plan of protection would render the man vulnerable and defenseless against the enemy determined to take his life.

The city of refuge is a picture of God’s loving provision given to us through Jesus. We find in Him salvation from the accuser who seeks to enslave us with guilt and shame. In the confines of His love and grace, we find protection from the lies of the enemy. Jesus provides a justice unlike what the world has to offer, for His justice is not dependent on what we deserve. Instead, we find justice based on His mercy and love, gifted to us through the shedding of His innocent blood. Like the city of refuge in the land of Israel, Jesus provides a safeguard from guilt and shame; our past wrongs are forgotten in His presence.

We must be careful, however, not to be drawn outside the sanctuary of our refuge city by the false security of our own strength. Outside the walls we find ourselves vulnerable and will quickly shift the weight of our guilt to someone else by manipulating the truth of our failures and accusing others of theirs. Our quick judgment of other’s shortcomings is a sure sign that we have forgotten the grace and protection we’ve been given. When we step outside the safety of our city of refuge, we become the accused and the accuser in the attempt to shift the blame. Outside the protection of His grace we have no defense for our guilt and become an easy prey for the enemy. When troubled times come, there is comfort in knowing that a haven of protection has been provided for us. His name is Jesus and He beckons us

 By Brooke