Sublimely Stooping

Valliant acts follow in the wake of greatness: heroism, bravery, and courage.  One ancient writer, however, records one act that no one would count as greatness.

Stooping is a lowering of oneself, a bending in submission to something or someone.  At its lowest, stooping is debasement and degradation, yet One greater than all has consented to stoop on our behalf, and we are immeasurably better for it.

“You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great.”

There is a touch of the sublime in this act of stooping by the One who made us and makes us great by His gentle touch.  To find something sublime declares that it elevates or exalts; it possesses a dignity and honor unnoticed by many.

In God In Search of Man, Abraham Joshua Heschel describes sublime as a characteristic that, “may be sensed in things of beauty as well as in acts of goodness and in the search for truth . . . The sublime is that which we see and are unable to convey.  It is the silent [implication] of things to a meaning greater than themselves.  It is that which all things ultimately stand for . . . The sublime is not a thing, a quantity, but rather a happening, an act of God, a marvel.  Thus even a mountain is not regarded as a thing.  What seems to be stone is a drama; what seems to be natural is wondrous.  There are no sublime facts; there are only divine acts.”

Some English translations of this text render “stoop” as “gentleness.”  In Hebrew, the word anavah’s individual letters (ayin = to see, know; nun = growth, life; vav = secure, nail, Messiah; and hey = behold, reveal) combine to possibly convey an unexpected message – “Know that Messiah’s life is revealed in you.”

When I least deserve my Lord, when I have been evil, petty, spiteful, and obstinate, then I sense something truly sublime, something that has no basis in fact or emotion or calculable merit.  In the midst of my own excrement, I sense my Savior stooping to help me up . . . again.

The good news of the Gospel is that stooping leads to the exaltation and revelation of Messiah to the world, and Jesus will stoop to rescue any one.  Only our Savior can accomplish that.

Copyright © 2013 Andy Madonio – Patriarchs, Philosophers, & Phlip Phlops

Friends

Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend.

Running a city is a big job, even thousands of years ago. King David was a great organizer of men, and 1 Chronicles 23 through 27 tells how he established order for temple worship, upkeep, maintenance, security, and how the army was organized. David established Jerusalem to run like a well-oiled machine.

Amidst the many details, assignments, naming heads of families and their progeny to perform all manifest tasks, literally hundreds of names are mentioned, but only one is listed with the glorious name of David’s friend.

Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend.

The Messiah also spoke of the importance of friends.

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends.”

I have called you friends – he said this to his disciples. Great huh? Well, there is no such thing as a free lunch – even two thousand years ago in Galilee.

So what’s the catch?

“You are my friends if you do what I command.”

You mean friendship requires effort?

“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”

Sometimes it’s difficult to have friends; sometimes we can’t live without friends. The king of a city needed friends; the King of the universe desires friends. Is the Messiah your friend yet? What are you waiting for?

Copyright © 2013 Andy Madonio – Patriarchs, Philosophers, & Phlip Phlops

Toss Your Troubles

Have you ever thought that if you could accept your own advice, life would be far more enjoyable?  Someday I’ll figure out how to do that – I should start today!  Today is a day for casting all troubles on the One who can handle them, and here’s why.

An ancient songwriter and poet once said, “Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

The understanding is sometimes in the details.  Since our poet was a Hebrew, the actual words he used reveal a beautiful truth.

Cast in Hebrew is shalak (שָׁלַךְ).  It is made up of Hebrew letters that are individual pictures that tell a combined story.  Shalak is spelled shin (teeth = chew, meditate) + lamed (shepherds staff = prod, teach, protection and authority) + kaf (open palm or wing = covering, protection).  The picture these letters tell of shalak (cast) might be, “meditate and consider that my protection and authority over you covers you completely.”

Likewise, burden is yehab (יָהַב), which comes from the root word yahab.  Both are spelled the same in vowel-less Hebrew, with the letters yod (an arm and hand = work, make, or throw) + hey (a man with arms raised or a window = behold, look, reveal) + bet (tent or home = family, household, or into).

Thus the whole picture of the words “cast your burden” could be saying, “Meditate and consider that my protection and authority over you covers you completely, because what has been thrown into your life will reveal whose home you belong to.”

Now all I have to do is listen to myself.  Whose home are you in?

Copyright © 2013 Andy Madonio – Patriarchs, Philosophers, & Phlip Phlops

Bad Wheat – Biblical Gluten Free?

Knowledgeable organic foodies know that man-altered wheat products are quite unhealthy.  Man tried to improve on what the Creator created, resulting in nutrition-less and harmful results.  Read Wheat Belly, or research the topic in Dr. Mercola’s website, to find more examples of how we have ruined the staple grain of mankind.

The Master Jesus told a parable of the ruination of another, more important crop, the lives of men, in Matthew 13:24-30.  In this parable, we read, While his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away.”  

I’ve always wondered why the enemy in this parable was able to sow “seeds” that ended up as humans created in God’s image that eventually went to hell.  I never understood that scenario because it isn’t what Jesus meant.

The key is understanding what “sleeping” means.  It is wrong to read this and say to yourself that it wasn’t the fault of the sleepers; after all they were sleeping, they were tired, how could they help that?  But sleeping here refers to their spiritual condition; it means they weren’t paying attention, they were distracted, they were preoccupied, they were lazy, they cared nothing about their spiritual state.  Sleeping is a condemnation of the men sleeping, and since parables are intended for the listener to place himself in the story, Jesus wanted his listeners to learn not to “sleep” spiritually.  The result at the end of the age is frightening.

The next key to understanding Jesus parable is one lost in Hebrew antiquity – the meaning of “tares.”  Most English bibles translate this as weeds, which is misleading and wrong.  Some more accurately use tares or darnel, and the difference is huge.  The Greek New Testament word used is zizanion, which is borrowed from the Hebrew word zonin.  It’s important to study zonin because it’s the word a Hebrew like Jesus would have said.  This biblical lexicon tells us that tares, or zonin, are understood in Judaism to be, “not a different plant from wheat but a degenerate form of it.”  Tares are wheat gone bad.  When Israel turned away from God, the bible uses a version of zonin – zonah – translated as harlot, prostitute, or whore, to describe Israel’s actions.  In Jeremiah 3 it is used four times.  The fruit of a degenerate crop is obvious and worthless; hence, when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.

Zonin is made up of the Hebrew letters zayin (sword) + vav (nail, messiah, hold together) + nun (seed, life, son, heir) + yud (arm, work) + nun.  This word may be thought to mean, “A cutting away of the One who holds all things together, making fruitless that which was fruitful.”  A degenerate life is one that has been ruined, distorted, and made fruitless.  We see the sense of the tares/darnel usage in this parable as something more deadly than the enemy sewing weed seeds in people’s lives.  Clearly the “weeds” in our lives are to be prevented and tended by those responsible – us!   We must diligently guard against taking a gift from god and perverting it, be it life, or sex, or anything.  He has given us life, and if we sleep spiritually, we become degenerate and worthless, wasting what we were freely given.

If we “sleep” spiritually, we are open to manipulation by the enemy, we are prone to becoming degenerate, we will be plainly and obviously fruitless, and we won’t escape the oven at the end of the age.  Biblical gluten-free is not the way to go.

Copyright © 2013 Andy Madonio – Patriarchs, Philosophers, & Phlip Phlops

One Disciple > 100 Saved

A disciple of the Messiah should meditate on this carefully.  Jesus is speaking in John 6:25-71 about salvation.  In v 58, he says whoever “feeds on this bread will live forever.”  “Live” in this Hebrew context means eternal life in Jesus’ presence, not merely today and tomorrow and forever on this present earth.  We call it being saved in our evangelical vernacular today.

Then Jesus warns the non-spiritual man: “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?”  In essence, he is telling us that we must rely on him for the vital nourishment of eternal life, and we must do it his way, the way of the Potter, not our way, the way of the clay.

Men do not readily accept the notion of complete reliance on another’s sustenance, provision, and mercy in order to “live forever;” that naturally grates against our independence.  Some in our secular non-spiritual generation are perfectly OK with relying on someone, as long as it is the government.  But the Lord is telling us plainly that the he, and no other, is the one who saves; “no one can come to me unless the Father has made it possible for him.”

At the end of his time on earth, Jesus then makes clear our assignment, telling his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”

Oswald Chambers said it this way: “Our work begins where God’s grace has laid the foundation; we are not to save souls, but to disciple them. Salvation and sanctification are the work of God’s sovereign grace; our work as His disciples is to disciple lives until they are wholly yielded to God. One life wholly devoted to God is of more value to God than one hundred lives simply awakened by His Spirit. As workers for God we must reproduce our own kind spiritually, and that will be God’s witness to us as workers. God brings us to a standard of life by His grace, and we are responsible for reproducing that standard in others.” (My Utmost for His Highest, April 24)

“One life wholly devoted” is where things begin to turn upside down.  Discipleship is not to be seen as pitted against evangelism, but it must be the end result, or the end result will be nothing.

Copyright © 2013 Andy Madonio – Patriarchs, Philosophers, & Phlip Phlops

Shameless!

The psalmist pleads to not be put to shame.  The Hebrew word for shame is bosh בוֹשׁ, made up of the letters bet (home, tent) + vav (nail, secure) + shin (teeth, devour).  The picture of shame to the eastern man is more than embarrassment; it is synonymous with drying up, with suffering, with a loss of all that contains life, with death in all but reality.

Bosh בוֹשׁ, tells the story of the destruction of the home and all that is secure therein. 

With Jesus, we have all that is secure, all that is needed, and all we require for abundant life.  When the psalmist asks, “Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I have cried out to you,” he has assurance that his savior, his messiah, will be everything he needs for life.  This thought may have been in the heart of our savior as he gave up his life on the cross for us as he uttered the prophetic words penned earlier by this disciple of the Lord – “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”  There is no shame in that.

Copyright © 2013 Andy Madonio – Patriarchs, Philosophers, & Phlip Phlops

The High-Priestly Sacrifice

The accused must stay in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest; only after the death of the high priest may he return to his own property. Numbers 35:28

God established cities of refuge for his children to flee to in case they committed crimes they could not atone for, nor be cleared of.  They were real events that led to such a desperate flight, yet our Lord knew we would sometimes require a place to hide, heal, and await mercy.

In His omniscience, he prefigured a system whereby only a high priest’s death could atone for and remit the crimes we are helpless to “undo.”  Who is the one to do this for us today?  To whom was God pointing in this passage of the Torah when he established the cities of refuge?  What high priest’s death has freed us from sins we have no means, nor hope of dispensing on our own?

Only Jesus.  Simply Jesus.  The Torah always points to Jesus.  Nothing wrong with that.

Copyright © 2013 Andy Madonio – Patriarchs, Philosophers, & Phlip Phlops