Trust in God’s Economy: Part 3–The World

Such a special discussion of intimacy with God must acknowledge its effect on the world. Much more is at stake in a relationship of this type than a person’s spiritual satisfaction.

Babylon (Genesis 1-11)

The “real world” as many adults posit it to many young people is one messed up pile of diarrhea. It’s been that way since Adam’s sin manifested in the Tower of Babel. All of humanity gathered together for one purpose: 

“Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

The world has historically been united before, and “world peace” once meant something godless long ago. And God scattered every nation across the world with different languages. Humanity had risen up as the spawn of Adam’s fallen humanity, and they were determined that they did not need God. No intimacy, no seeking to know God, only a seeking to be known by a name they themselves made. This is the way of the world, so I don’t pray for world peace anymore, at least not without God.

They wanted a great name for themselves, but God showed one man the path to making his name great: intimacy with God. Friendship with God.

Abraham: Genesis 12-25

What was the promise? part of it Genesis 12:2– “I will make you a great you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and so you shall be a blessing.” The Principle here is this: Trustworthiness with God is the path to one’s name being great for the purpose of blessing the world. Without this friendship, it is not going to happen. But if it does happen, there is no telling how amazing the promises of God will unfold in a person’s life.

The best part of this relationship of intimacy with God is God himself. And with such a closeness with Him, the world will be touched by the blessing of this relationship leading to salvation for all who will accept it.

Isaac and IsraelGenesis 24-35, Old Testament

One of the benefits of Abraham’s journey with God, is that his son carried the spiritual heritage even further! The last act of Abraham was finding a bride for Isaac, and Isaac’s death came only after his son Jacob had wrestled with God and been given his new name Israel, after beholding a face of God.

The pattern was set by his father, and the family became Israel, the nation which would be priests to God. They would show the world the way back to a relationship with the Father, but they did a poor job of it until Jesus came, as the glory of Israel.

The Church: Romans 1:5, and 16:26

And one such son of Israel of the tribe of Benjamin shared the goal of his ministry in the beginning and the end of his letter to the Romans. 

“Through Jesus we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the [Nations] for His name’s sake.” ~Romans 1:5 

This is God’s design: to let the blessing of a relationship with Him come forth in all that the church does to bless the world. This is the only way there will be any blessing from the church. Without the aroma, the presence, the facial expressions, the words, the actions, the character of God himself evident in all our actions, the world will not be able to see Him. Such a reflection of God is not born in academia, or in the realm of moralism, or political maneuvers, or even social programs. The glory of God is seen face to face with Him, and face to face with each other.

And so I close with Jesus’ own question in Luke 18:8  “When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth?”

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Inside the Drum

Pum, Pum, Pum
Came the beat of the drum
Thick, full echoes shaken, quaken

Bum, Bum, Bum
All through the enclosed room
The air reverberated and faded

True, True, True
All is in clear view
Nothing is hidden, naught is forbidden

Bole, Bole, Bole
Hear His thunder roll
There is only sound all around

Thwack, Thwack, Thwack
The wall inside, I stifled the whack
Now two partitions split the transmissions

Pap, Pap, Pap,
The stick went slap
The words were broken, a dream half-woken

Still, Still, Still
Eerie restlessnesses fill
The empty recesses of my newfound trusses

“Pum,” “Pum,” “Pum”
My noises sound dumb
The echoes malformed are not warmed

“Bole! Bole! Bole!”
My voice is droll
The echoes die; it is I

Lies, Lies, Lies
My mimicking cries
The room I split, a dark pit

“No! No! No!”
With all my might I throw
The walls collapse with a crash

“Bum, Bum, Bum”
I shout in the drum,
It rings soundness, and profoundness

Ring, Ring, Ring,
I listen for something
Anything to be known, and blown again

Bow, Bow, Bow
The sound returns now
Tear wells are open at new words spoken

Boom, Boom, Boom
The presence in the room
All fullness no dullness

Broll, Broll, Broll,
Welcome thunders roll
The instrument is His

Trust in God’s Economy: Part 2–The Man

So then what will it take to have this kind of intimacy with God? Abraham will be our subject of study, as he was for the Apostle Paul in Romans 4. I will examine them in my favorite fashion of Levels of Intimacy with God.

  1. Genesis 12: the Answering the Calling of God: God calls an individual to leave his home and his family behind so that he can become something else, something more than he could have been on his own. If there is obedience to this calling then “You’re off!” The reward for his obedience was the first level of Intimacy with God: God appeared to him. (vs. 7)
  2. Genesis 13: is the Casting off of Compromises: God called Abraham to leave everything behind, but still Lot went with him. It got to the point where they had to separate. If Abraham had stayed allied with Lot, he would not have been able to enjoy the blessing of God to the fullest. In our lives, compromises look like any decision we have made that falls short of God’s character of design for our lives. The reward for Abraham after he proved himself trustworthy in this was God said, “After Lot was separated from him, ‘Now lift your eyes in every direction . . . this land I will give to you and your descendants.’ The borders and the full extent of the promise was shown to him
    Recently, I thought it appropriate to mention another dimension of this idea of God trusting us. I recently read in Proverbs 3:32 about the upright, “He takes the upright into His confidence.” If any are unconvinced of God’s trust, the wisest of men shows us that it is available.
  3. Genesis 14-15: is the Denial of Worldly Reward. Abraham rescued the King of Sodom, and gave a Tithe to Melchizedek, and denied any compensation from the King of Sodom. The reward: God said he’d protect and provide for him. Furthermore, He reveals something about his character.  This is where God’s blessing and personal revelation REALLY gets special. God promises to carry his own word through to completion to His own detriment. Abraham who cut the animals in two pieces, could not keep the birds away, but God moved between the two pieces of the animals showing He would bear the weight of the breach of the Covenant. This God is so trustworthy, but he only entrusts such revelation to those who will prove this level of trustworthiness for this intimacy.
  4. Genesis 16-21: the Casting out of the Bondwoman, the easy, less-than-perfect life we have created for ourselves. Abram needed to send away Hagar because her son was to have no inheritance with the child of the promise. In our lives, this looks like getting rid of every fruitless and meaningless pursuit to which we have devoted ourselves and invested our lives, so that God can know that it is Him we want. By this point in the story, God gives Abraham a new name, and a son.
             Also, at this point, it is worth noting that Abraham was given personal insight into his plans and even giving him a voice in affecting them. When God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18, he said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am going to do?”
  5. Genesis 22 Fifth, the Sacrifice of the Promise. The final test of any believer (Trust-er) It was faith in God that enabled Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, not because he didn’t love Isaac, but because he did, and it says in Hebrews that he “trusted” that God could raise the dead. This faith is truly saving faith, but it did not presume on God, but waited for His call to give it up. His reward: insight into His secret plan to redeem the whole world, and a secure place in making it happen. Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56)

I have written of these things in brief, but they are worth deep seeking out in His Word. Abraham is the prototype for saving faith, and the more he trusted God, the more God entrusted Himself to him. This level of trust isn’t merely a calculating judgment for means-to-ends purposes. This is a personal revealing of one’s self and a bringing alongside of his friend. This is genuine friendship with God in the truest sense. This is how all nations can be blessed. More on that in the next article.

Encouragement: Pursue this intimacy with God. Abram messed up at the beginning and end of his walk with God and in the middle, but what remained was his trust in God. If you want insight on how to grow in Trust with God, I believe it is largely cultivated in the Fourth Stage of a believer’s life: Wilderness, so you can see my writings on the subject for more thought-food.

Here, I have provided spiritual guiding principles, but let the evil one evoke no condemnation in you. If it’s fear that makes you run from God, it is a lie of Satan. Still, this type of pursuit of God is not for everyone. Jesus knew this when he said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8

Trust in God’s Economy: Part 1–The Word

One of the most special subjects, tender to my heart, is God’s decision to trust us. I realized the other day that God’s ability to trust me with anything has been the cornerstone to the formation of my conscience. There was a time when I was a little boy, I lied to my parents about cleaning my room, and I had promised God that I would tell them before I went to bed. I had gone to bed, but could not bear the simple thought of breaking a promise to God: not because I was scared God would do something to me, but just because it was fundamentally wrong. I said, “I made a promise to God, and I am NOT going to break that promise.”

But some people say, God trusting us? God shouldn’t trust us, we’re totally treacherous.” Yes, but if you read the Old Testament, God tested how much he could trust his blessing to his people, and use them by various ways to show that they were fully devoted to him: Abraham being the prototype. For example, why else would God have asked Abraham to make the sacrifice that He himself would one day make? (Genesis 22)

Plus, consider that every time God speaks to an individual, or gives a person a commandment, it is an act of trust: prove your worth to me, and my worth to you by your ability to follow this simple task. If a person obeys God’s voice, then they are proven to be trustworthy. And the Word of God will always do more than just test a man’s actions; “The Word of the Lord is living and active sharper than any two edged sword piercing to the division of soul and spirit and joints and marrow, and it discerns the thoughts of the mind and the intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Ultimately God’s Word reveals something about a person whenever it comes. If a person hears his word and obeys it, he is worthy of trust with more of His Word. But if he hears his word and does not do it, he has proven himself to be fruitless, defective, and useless to the Master.

This is plain to see in Parables of Jesus, but it still seems to deal on the level of “professional trustworthiness” if you will: Can Jesus trust me with greater tasks in his business? This of course, is a true Dimension to God’s trustworthiness. After all “He who is faithful with little, will be faithful with much.” But there’s another very, very sweet and for me a tearful realization that there is something more special kind of trust to have with God.

For the devious are an abomination to the Lord; But He is intimate with the upright.~Proverbs 3:23

Intimacy: a closeness of sharing one’s very self: this is a privilege for the upright. Trust in God’s economy is for those who walk without “deviation” who are whole-hearted, trustworthy, simply devoted–in a word– faithful. This trust in God’s economy is a currency often neglected in the Church. This is not just “I know God.” or “I have a relationship with Jesus.” kind of intimacy. This is a privilege of getting to “see God.” that is a blessing for the pure in heart (Matthew 5:8). Not all self-proclaimed Christians can claim this privilege. It takes a degree of sacrifice that nominal Christianity cannot afford. It takes, to use a Biblical type, Abram’s leaving his home and his family at the call of God, it takes Abram’s separation from Lot, it takes a denial of worldly reward, it takes a disowning of one’s own failed creations, it takes the total surrender of every preciously irreplaceable gift of God– it is the desire to know Him no matter how hard, or how good the cost. This progression brings about the reward of which the Prophet wrote in Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.” ~Jeremiah 9:23-24

Such a special gift of intimacy with God, of which one may humbly boast, comes by showing one’s trustworthiness, not just in obedience, but also in devoted affectionate love to the One who is truly worthy of it. Indeed, the warning is there for those who choose not to pursue this:

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “that I will punish all who are circumcised and yet uncircumcised—Egypt and Judah, and Edom and the sons of Ammon, and Moab and all those inhabiting the desert who clip the hair on their temples; for all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart.” ~Jeremiah 9:25-26

My encouragement: pursue intimacy with God at any cost. No matter what you have done, if your heart within you is moved to pursue this closeness with God, it is His drawing you, and He will by no means cast you out.

My Spiritual Journey

This, in Christian terms, is my “testimony” I’ve translated it into more common speech, which I hope will be of help to people who are seeking a place to start.

My personhood is where I’ll start. My family was a father and a mother and two older sisters, with extended family still largely intact. At home, I was scheduled, given quiet time to be on my own, and given limited time in front of a screen. I had fairly consistent parents who disciplined not just actions I did, but also called me out on attitudes I held.When I reflect on my childhood, I felt safe, loved, and full of respect for my parents. They took me to church, where my discipline as a child proved useful in making me very well liked in the Homeschool Co-op and Baptist Bible Belt communities I found myself a part.

The selfishness was in me from the beginning. I can retrace places in my heart where I acted out of selfishness and was punished, and my pride caused me to make un-punishable error after self-destructive decision. I wouldn’t check my work, I would find ways to twist things to my own advantage, I would use the good behavior and things I did right to make me more prestigious in the eyes of people so that I would be praised. Silly boy. My Mother I’ve long understood has been much more caring than I, and my Dad knew what it was to be led by something greater than him.

Now that I have started with the setting and the problem, when I was 5, I prayed to ask Jesus to become my Savior, which basically means I knew I had done bad things, and I wanted to go to Heaven one day. But this hasn’t felt like the biggest part of my spiritual journey.

One of the big moments was around 7 or 8 years old: a moment when I made a promise to God, and refused in my heart of hearts to break that promise. I had lied to my parents about cleaning up my room, and lay awake that night unable to get past the promise I had made to God that I would tell them, so I told them. That was a pivotal moment when my heart decided that God, or at least my integrity before Him was the most important thing.

I got baptized around 12 years old, and for some reason it was around this time that I felt an acceleration in my spiritual journey. I started journalling, after the pattern of MYST and Riven, complete with the number system. Dad, who claims to have been led by God for many years (not that he has ever claimed it. He hasn’t really needed to claim anything to me), told me that God uses men who journal, so I journaled. He also told me two things that have greatly shaped my life. He encouraged me to pray two prayers:

  1. Give me a heart completely and utterly devoted to You.
  2. Speak to me in a way I can understand you.

To a reader, it may seem like the deck was stacked pretty heftily in God’s favor as far as shaping who I was going to believe in. Granted, I was steeped in Bible verses from the AWANA program, and my Dad almost always had a Proverb for anything he was doing, but I started pursuing it for my own sake. I dabbled in systematic theology, listened to the Bible on tape, Christian artists. When it came to sealing the deal for the direction of this spiritual journey, I had one main thing I can point to.

As I journaled, I became fascinated with the idea of what true manhood means: what it means to be a real man. I read John Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart” and it really got me excited about the battles to fight, adventures to live, and beauties to rescue. It gave my heart room to fly. I wanted to be mature as a real man so badly, and I knew I would have to leave my childishness behind.

A climax to this initial stage of my spiritual journey where I think I was completely convinced was thanks to Norm Wakefield, of Spirit of Elijah Ministries. His tape series of Equipping Men, had one particular lesson that brought me to my knees.

In his lesson “In Search of Happiness,” Norm explains that a person will try everything he can to be happy, except just Jesus, and Jesus only is the only answer. In a moment I saw my idolatry, and my fleshly pride. I saw my sin utterly, and I confessed to the God who I believed was real how I had been trying everything to make myself happy, instead of looking to Jesus alone to meet all my needs. Basically, I turned over full control of my life to God at that point. From that point forward, I wouldn’t want to do anything, make any decision unless it was what He wanted me to do. In Christian terms, Jesus became, “Lord of my life.”

I believed God wanted me to do vocational ministry in some way, though I’m not entirely sure what kind. My Dad continued to call me out to manhood, especially to being like Jesus. He gave me some books which continued to shape me into College: Refiner’s Fire Volumes I and II, and The Existence and attributes of God Volumes I and II. After those two books, Christianity had taken on a very interesting characteristic. I would compare it to colors: the Christianity that glows amber. It’s Christianity with a smell to it. It reverberates with the heart, mind, and soul in ways that only melted and broken hearts can. This vein of Christian tradition has taught me to prioritize God as a person, rather than prioritizing doctrine, tradition, or expressionism. (Blue, Purple, and Yellow respectively). These are subjective terms, but the point is that through my journalling, my listening for His voice, and the writings of those who had been with God, I had a pretty steady grasp in my heart of the God whom the Bible attested to.

Speaking of His voice, I don’t actually remember the first time I heard Him “speak” to me. This is one of those mystical experiences that many of the ancient Christians attested to, and many of today in various branches of Christianity also experience. I know what it is to hear His voice because, this voice miraculously sounds like the Bible, and he says things that I do not yet know or understand. I’ve recently learned that there is more for God to say to people who are willing to take the time to listen, but it seems so few truly are interested in listening to Him. I’ve found precious few.

From there, College met a lot of trial and error as I tried to walk out this very personal faith on a campus of very doctrinally solidified individuals (PCA Covenant College) My heart’s fire was not dimmed though. However, I had a continual source of personal revelation of God: the Scriptures. This has been the most fundamentally important pieces of my spiritual journey. The more I studied the Bible, the more I got a clear picture of God, humanity, me, and Jesus. This religious text is far more than that to me, because of who I have felt breathing in it page after page, word after word. Like thrusting my heart back into the fires from whence it was forged over and over again until I am shaped more like my maker.

Anyway, as you can tell, I start to get passionately excited about this journey. It has grown sweeter. He keeps showing me how there is so much more to Him even in the Bible for people who truly want to know Him. He is real, and does ever so desire a relationship of close intimacy with those who are honest of heart.

This is probably one of the main points my testimony asserts: God is real, and really interested in intimacy with the honest of heart. I’ve genuinely wanted to know Him, and my spiritual journey has led me to conclude that He is real, and He has matched my desire with the purest responses of genuine love that keeps me changing to be more like Jesus.

Now that I’m married, a lot of things about God that the Bible said have made sense a lot more sense as I get to experience them in relationship with another human being. The Torah has given me a greater appreciation for the depth of human (my own) depravity and the depth of God’s goodness in response, and the power and importance of the Cross. This is where I find myself currently on my spiritual journey: married, teaching Bible to children, and growing in my faith by following God’s leading, studying the Scriptures, and journaling what I’ve learned. I also do a lot with music, but maybe that’s another story.

I hope this has been helpful to you, dear reader. It’s not a testimony of which I am ashamed. I am nothing, an insignificant proud guy who has learned to lay his life down for the pursuit of God’s pleasure in all my life.

Thanks be to God. He is absolutely amazing!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Venting: The Depth of the Cross

Any “so-called” gospel that doesn’t bring the truth about the cross to bear in people’s lives will end in disappointment and disillusionment. The Gospel is basically call to die each day. Anyone who is not dying each day is not living the Gospel.

The Pastor who says “God has a wonderful plan for your life” yet falls into adultery, is one who has not crucified his old life, but is seeking God’s ‘wonderful plan’ for his old life. Such a man, even if he hasn’t yet fallen, will one day.

The church who says, “God wants you to be healthy and wealthy” is preaching faith without obedience. Jesus learned obedience by the things he suffered, and it is this obedience of faith that was the goal of Paul’s gospel in Romans 1 and 16.

The Gospel isn’t a sales pitch. It is to own your unworthiness, and to follow Christ’s trail which begins and ends each day with the laying down of one’s own life, so that Christ can live in them. This is a way to sum up Christianity: Owning your unworthiness, and trusting in God’s love by living like Jesus beginning and ending each day with laying down your own life so that Jesus can live in them.

The school which does not have a vision to see children grow up to give their lives for Jesus is not teaching the gospel. Upstanding moral human beings minus the cross still mean shallow and broken human beings who are the problem with the world.

The person who acts like he’s all together, not living in light of the cross, is living in a dream that will shatter one day. “He who loves his life will lose it.” Jesus said, “But who ever hates his life will keep it forever.” John 12:25

Any declaration that says, “Jesus suffered on the cross so you wouldn’t have to.” is fallacious and hazardously self-oriented. Jesus suffered on the cross to show people who didn’t know how to do it the right way.

The King and the Seven Realms

Once upon a time there was a powerful King over a vast kingdom, and the Kingdom was beautiful in his eyes. He appointed rulers over the kingdom, but the representatives rebelled and turned the whole kingdom against the King. The Castle was the only place left where the light still shined and where people served the King. All the rest of the lands around were enshrouded in darkness.

But the King loved his people even though they had rebelled. He divided his realm into Five realms which competed with each other, until they could rejoin him. Though this slowed his people’s rebellion down, things kept getting worse and worse.

He selected a man from his people and called him to leave the Five dark realms to be the King’s representative. He wanted the man to show the rest of the realms how they could rejoin the King whom they hated so much. The man wasn’t perfect, but he trusted in his king. The King took this one man and his wife and protected and provided for them until they became a huge family, which became a people. The King set them up in a space that became the sixth realm in the middle of the Five dark realms.

Still, even this family of people which the King had set apart didn’t show the other people how to rejoin the King. They started to take over the other realms claiming they were serving the King. But everyone else despised them. The Sixth realm had become even darker than the other Five realms.

But the King loved the family, and he sent his new-born son, the Prince, to grow up in this family. He hoped that his son would show all six realms a way back to serving the King. But when the Prince was full grown, he looked just like his father, and the whole sixth realm came together against him, and the Five other dark realms came together in agreement that they wanted nothing to do with the Prince or his King, so they had him killed!

Now the tables had turned. All the people were shown for what they truly were: selfish rebels against a good King.  And the Prince who had become one with his people, did not stay dead, but the King  brought him back to the castle where he was brought back to life again! The King was shown to have the power of life over death!

The people from all the realms around, the five and the Sixth, heard the news that the Prince had come back to life. Some would never serve the King again, but others resubmitted to the King’s Rule, and they established little pockets of what was now the Seventh realm: The King’s Kingdom. Light started shining in the dark realms again.

Once all was arranged for the King’s reclamation, the King and his Son went out with a huge army to cast out the rebels who refused to rejoin the King and destroyed their lands. All that was left, he gave to those who had returned again to serve him as their King. He made the Seven realms into One realm again: The King’s Kingdom was fully renewed.

The Prince took for himself a Bride from among the people whom he loved so much and he became the new King. He appointed new rulers: faithful ones who would not betray the King who fought for them, and the new King who gave his life for them. They all lived happily ever after.

The Boy and the Stick

It’s hard to imagine a boy so happy with a 1-inch thick crooked dead tree-dropping, but for this boy, it was a key to unlock the world! It was a gun to fight off pirates, a boomerang to throw at game. It was a sword to rescue damsels. It was for drawing pictures in the dirt. He didn’t have anything else in the world, but with this stick, he felt like a king with a scepter in his hands.

One day the boy was walking by a garbage can and saw a stuffed animal someone had discarded. The boy plucked it out and made it his friend. Later that year his parents made more money, and at Christmas he got a pair of roller skates, and for his birthday the next year, he got a cool remote control car. Well, this boy was so happy with his new toys he left his stick by the back door of his house behind the window sill in it’s secret hiding spot.

The boy got older, and his toys got more sophisticated. He eventually he had grown old enough to get a job, so he could buy more expensive toys: A Four-wheeler, a computer, a phone. And by this point you’d think the boy with the stick had everything he wanted. Nope. He was an adult, he had the car he wanted, the friends he wanted, and was dating a girl, but he always wanted more. Only when he had more, would he be happy.

Then one day the unthinkable happened: He was the victim of identity theft. All his money was gone, and he went back to his parents’ house empty handed. They gave him his old room, with his old toys. none of them seemed to matter anymore. He went outside and sat on the back doorstep and suddenly remembered what was to his right as he was looking out into the woods: his secret hiding place. In a moment of nostalgic curiosity he looked and saw it: his old stick he played with as a boy.

It’s hard to imagine an adult so puzzled by the memories flooding back at holding a simple 1-inch-thick crooked dead tree-dropping, but the feelings came back and this time he knew what they were. He walked back into the house with his old stick which by now had rotted through, so it would break easily, and took it to his bedroom. After a little while, he settled into the feeling he had forgotten with every new toy. He remembered.

The key to the world isn’t owning everything, but truly appreciating the one thing that is truly yours.

Now, the world was his once again.

Torah Teachings: In the Wilderness

Matthew 23:34– Jesus said, “I am sending you prophets, wisemen, and scribes. . .” The word “scribes” my friend from Seminary helped me understand as “Torah Teachers.” Why in the New Testament would Jesus send someone to teach the Torah to the Pharisees who knew it backwards and forwards? Because the “LAW” as it is called did more than prescribe behavior, but it describes human nature and God’s responses to Save humanity. This is another dimension of the LAW which Jesus fulfills.

The stories of the Torah reveal the character of God and depravity of Humanity like only one other story does: The life and death of Jesus. So often, the life of Jesus is not taken as seriously, and the message of the cross being foolishness to man becomes a mere piece of  thumb-worn religious jewelry on a pale Christian soul. To revitalize the message of the Gospel, one must return to the roots rich with the nourishing dirt of the Torah, in which the tree of Scripture takes root and sprouts to reveal two truths: God is Savior, and we are rebellious.

One story which brought this home is in Numbers chapters 16 and 17 in English Bibles, but just Numbers 16 in the Hebrew Tanak. Israel has just blown their chance to inherit the promised land, because 10 bad apples spread a bad report that discouraged everyone from believing in God, even though 2 spies, and 2 leaders stood with God. The people were finished. God stood ready to destroy them in Numbers 14, but Moses intercedes, and now the people who refused to trust God will die in the wilderness, and their children will possess the land.

This is not satisfactory for the people. Would it be for you? There is a military coup, where the people try to go up anyway, but God is not with them. They get slaughtered. No surprises here that those with military might would seek to secure their own salvation. This has been human nature since the fall.

Then there is a priestly coup. 250 Levites and Korah, Dathan, and Abiram– sounds like quite a force to be reckoned with. They move to dispose of Moses and Aaron because Moses and Aaron are thought to be the reason why the people are dying in the wilderness and not God, but God defends them, and proves that He is in charge by the earth swallowing up the 3 leaders, and the fire of the LORD consuming the 250 Levites where they stood. Again, no surprises here. The priests do not want to die, they don’t want the people to all fall dead in the wilderness. They refuse to accept God’s judgment, and they rise up and try to take control to preserve themselves. God has condemned them in His wrath “They shall not enter my rest.” Instead of humbly submitting, they revolt. “I don’t want to die!” they cry. Is this not a piece of Human nature we see over and over to this day?

Then, immediately after all the offering pans are picked up from the 250 smoldering corpses, another coup, this time the whole congregation of the people of Israel! Every layperson in Israel rises up against Moses and Aaron and says, “You have caused the LORD’s people to die!” Once again the glory of God appears.

It is fallen human nature to not accept God’s judgment. Whether it be military or privilege, this is easier to see and understand, but is it really everybody? The Torah teaches how utterly depraved all humans are to the end and how God’s glory will continue to fill the earth so long as He lives (Numbers 14:20-21).

It is my view that this utter depravity of Human nature can only be dealt with in a believer’s life after he is saved by the filling of the Holy Spirit. This, I believe, is why Jesus had to go into the Wilderness, so that in the crucible any dross of humanity left beneath the skin through the waters of baptism may be purified from the inside out. God will keep refining us in the Wilderness (Which, by the way, happens to be the Hebrew name for the Book of Numbers: “In the Wilderness.”) We must be taught to accept God’s judgment on sin in our lives, and not see it as making us a victim, but as refining impure gold, which has chosen it’s impurity over the love of the Lord since birth.

How does one know that he is ready to leave the wilderness? When he can do what Moses and Aaron did in all three of these circumstances: they fell on their face. The falling on their face is a vulnerable, death-like stance of submission one takes before God and man: unwilling to try to save oneself– thrown fully on the mercy of another. Moses and Aaron and Joshua and Caleb were the only ones who fell on their face in Numbers 14, and even Moses and Aaron did not get to enter into the promised land. The stance of falling on your face means, you accept God’s judgment of you even if it means he damn you to Hell. This is truly what we deserve. And this is true too: If we do not fall face-down before God (Numbers 14:5) in whole-hearted submission to His judgment, then our corpses will fall in the wilderness. (Numbers 14:29)

How does this work in light of Christ’s death for all sin? Does this negate the work of the cross? Should not the believer see Christ’s death on the cross as God’s justice fulfilled even for the punishment of sin in his life? Certainly all the required wrath has been poured out on Jesus instead of those of us who now have peace with Him, but we need our own cross to deal with the persistent presence of sin in our fallen hearts. God has given us a cross to carry behind Jesus on the road to Calvary to deal with this part of our sin problem, and only those indwelt by the Spirit will carry their cross just as Jesus did, not for their own salvation, but for Christ’s salvation to be borne to others through our constant dying to self. Such is the mystery of faith: Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

I pray that if you find yourself in the wilderness with God, that you treasure this time. He is preparing you as a pure vessel so that His work may be done through you, and He loves you more than I can say.