The Rest of God

282402_10100160606116021_17006450_45588034_4109272_nHay season means different things to different people. For those of us between the ages of 12 and a long 55, that means hot temps, hay hooks, sultry eves, and short water breaks. It’s the best stay in school lesson a boy can have. The short breaks are greatly welcomed. I am glad life is not lived at hay season’s pace. I learned this twice in the during a week in July.

The week began on the first day, Sunday, preaching at Hartford. We left there and drove to Greeley, Colorado and spent the night. The next morning we hung out in Greeley and visited some awesome people that I will write about at another time. My family reunion began Monday afternoon in Larkspur, so we headed down there after seeing all that Greeley had to offer. Wednesday night brought the Franklin County Christian Youth Rodeo where I needed to be at 5pm. I left Colorado Springs at 6:30 am to get to the rodeo. After a 9 hour drive, 2 stops, and 15 sermons on the iPod, I arrived at my destination where I fought bulls horribly. My performance that night has haunted me ever since. I came home around 3 and slept a short few hours before getting up to do some chores…I am still hazy on how I got home.

This nect Sunday morning (a day of encouragement) I preached in Hartford as well. We had left early, but a flat tire had delayed us. Thinking I would have plenty of time to get my head right before preaching, my down time was gone before I had to preach. As I stepped up on stage, my mind was racing and my thoughts garbled. As I began the message that morning, the rodeo and my current situation spun around my brain and I came to this realization: rest has got to be a bigger part of my life.

Sleep is not the issue. I have had plenty of sleep. Rest is not sleep. Rest is “time between”. It’s that time where you are doing things that fill your spirit, ease your mind, challenge your heart, and get energized. It is “time between” the tasks before you.

Much has been made of the term “between”. Some have called it “margin” or “fill”. God called it “Sabbath”. But until recently, I didn’t realize that God had practiced it on occasion.

Three times in Scripture, God “rested”. Not because of exhaustion or weariness, but because of accomplishment. When there is nothing left to do, no more on the list, with the finishing touches complete, the only thing to do is to rest, to enjoy the “time-between”.

At the end of Creation: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed [hb.-kala] in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished [hb.-kala] the work [hb.-mela’ka] he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested [hb. shabat] from all his work[hb.-mela’ka].” [Gen. 2.1-2] The first verbal form of k-l-h is in the pual stem which is intesive but passive, “heavens and earth were completed”; whereas the second form is in the piel stem which is intensive and active, “God finished”.   And when He finished, he rested. The hebrew verb shabat, which the NIV translates rested, is the same root as the hebrew noun Shabbat, which is transliterated as Sabbath. So when God finished, he took Sabbath; a “time between”. God would no longer be creating, but providing for His creation.   God will now be partnering with man to accomplish his purposes and plans.

At the Cross. “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19.30)    Tetelestai meaning “It is finished” or “complete”. It is a perfect verb. Not just a fitting verb for what is happening both locally meaning Jesus death on the cross, or cosmically the atonement of sins, but the tense of the verb is the “perfect” tense. In Greek the “perfect” tense showed a completed action with lasting consequences. Our current salvation is assured because of the completed action of Christ’s work on the cross. Our present state of “saved” is because of the finished work of Christ on that day. God rested on that day, but his work would continue on because of the “perfect” tense of Tetelestai.

The Inauguration of New Heaven and the New Earth. “He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (Rev. 21.6) Done is a fantastic word to hear. A few verses prior, God has said that He will dwell with man and he will live with them (3). God walked in the morning cool of the Garden, dwelt among men for 33 years in human form, and now will live amongst His people forever. The work may be done and God is resting, but God is still God. Just because the work is complete, doesn’t mean God has checked out.

What is fascinating about these three instances where God completes a task, be it creation, salvation, or complete redemption, is that though the work is done, he never leaves it behind. Make sense?   After creating it, He sustains it. After saving it, He guides it. After redeeming it, He dwells amongst it. The work is done, but not abandoned.

All to often tasks, once completed, are left to their own devices. God has never treated humanity that way. From creation to inauguration and beyond, God chose to partner with humanity, to be in relationship with us, in order to accomplish his purposes, namely to receive His due glory. In the midst of the struggle when God seems at His farthest, though we live in a completed action, it must never be thought of as an abandoned project.

Taken: Abram

Another Face in the Crowd
Another Face in the Crowd

The quest for an identity begins early on in a man’s life. It begins with things like action figures, big wheels, and Tonka trucks (and for the younger readers they used to be made of metal and were way cooler). Overnight it changed to girls, sports equipment, legos, video games, and bikes. High school brought girls, cars, sports feats, buckles, and video games. With college came girls (have you noticed a pattern), cars, video games, buckles, saddles, and money. Then after college, when the real world starts, identity shifts to wives, career, house, money, kids (and their accomplishments), trucks, trailers, buckles and saddles.

We are pretty convincing about the good intentions of our pursuit of identity. Rationalization comes pretty easily. Like the old cowboy proverb says: “The biggest liar you will ever have to face, watches you shave your face in the mirror every morning.” If you’re like me, my pursuit of identity is still just action figures, big wheels, and tonka trucks. It’s just that they cost more now.

Identity is rooted in a fear of irrelevancy and a fear of being a nobody. We pursue things because if we don’t we think we will be relegated to an also ran, an extra, another face in the crowd. I will never forget the time I showed up to fight bulls for the first time with a guy I had never met. After he pointed out my store bought belt buckle, he informed me that I didn’t belong there. I was another face in the crowd.

Abram was another face in the crowd at one time. He grew up in Ur [Gen 11.31], one of the oldest cities on Earth as part of the oldest civilization on Earth. Ur had been around for centuries by the time Abram had arrived on the scene. Their civilization was advanced, their worship was organized (and extremely polytheistic [Joshua 24.2]), and their society was growing. In the center of town was a huge ziggurat that rose high above the surrounding city and surrounding lands. The title of the architect of this great structure, Ur-Nammu, stamped his title and his name on the bricks, as a testament of the great building feat. It rose 70’ high in its day with a base 200’ by 150’.** In front of the monumental artificial mountain where worship would take place was the market where people would gather and mill around exchanging goods and food. Worship, community, and society were foundational to city life in Ur. Abram was just a face in the crowded streets.

But God took him, a man in the crowd, and made him the “father of nations” (Abraham means ‘father of many’).

Abrams story beings in Genesis 11. He, alongside his father and family took off from Ur to the north and west, to Haran. Stephen, in Acts 7.2-3, indicates that the call of the first few verses of Genesis 12 took place while Abram was still in Ur. Moses apparently felt it best to wrap up Terah’s story with his death in Haran before moving on to Abram’s, but that is beside the point. God has chosen Abram to do His work. Just take a look at some of the verbs in the first few verses of chapter 12:

  • “the Lord had said [to Abram]…” [hb. ‘amar]
  • “I [the Lord] will show you [Abram]…” [hb. ra’a]
  • “I [the Lord] will make you [Abram]…” [hb. ‘asa]
  • “I [the Lord] will bless you [Abram]…” [hb. barak] – 2 times
  • “I [the Lord] will curse those who curse you [Abram]…” [hb. ‘arar]
  • “So Abram left…” [hb. halak]

The first five were the actions of God and the last one of Abram. Abram was taken on the ride of his life. Going to an unknown place, with a brand new [to him] God. He grew up in a polytheistic nation (meaning many gods were worshipped), when the Lord called him out to follow where He is leading. Abram has one job…to follow. A face in the crowd in Ur, Abram is asked to go where God is leading.

With this single act, Abram will be forever remembered.

“Abraham believed the Lrod, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15.6)

This verse summed up the way he lived his life. He garnered more mention in the New Testament than any other person aside from Moses. It was his faith that gave him his identity and made him what he was known for. He would be renamed Abraham, which means “the father of many”, in Genesis 17.5, but his identity would forever be cemented long before that.

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going…” (Heb. 11.8)

The author of Hebrews (Heb 11), Paul (Rom 4, Gal. 3), James (2.21-23). and Stephen (Acts 7) all understood Abram as a man of faith; a faith that leads to righteousness. When it comes down to it, Abram could have remained in Ur and lived his life as another face in the crowd. But God, who made the move and took the initiative, took Abram from the crowd of Ur, into the land that he chose. Abraham needed faith.

All too often we attempt to make and manufacture our own identity instead of letting God do what he does. It’s interesting that the people who amazed Jesus were not the intellectuals, the super-religious, or the most successful. Jesus’ amazement was directly correlated to a person’s faith. The centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant, not by attending to him, but by a word, he amazed Jesus with his faith (Mat 8.10; Luke 7.9). It’s also clear that he was taken by the faith of the Canaanite woman, who begged Jesus to heal her daughter. His answer to that request: “Woman, you have great faith!” (Matt 15.28) It is fitting that Jesus was also amazed at the absence of faith. When he spoke to the people of his hometown and they took offense to him, he was “amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mark 6.6) A Roman Centurion and a Canaanite woman, forever remembered in God’s word because of their faith, just like an ancient face-in-the-crowd.  That’s what I want to be known for, not buckles or awards, things or titles, but faith.

We can get so bogged down in trying to make a name for ourselves here on this earth, but Abraham shows us that if we are faithful, God provides us with an identity. It reminds me of one of my favorite poems growing up by Walt Huntley that reads:

Your name may not appear down here 

In this world’s Hall of Fame.

In fact, you may be so unknown 

That no one knows your name;

The Oscars and the Praise of men

may never come your way

but rest assured God has rewards

the He’ll hand out someday.

 

This Hall of Fame is only good

As long as time shall be;

But keep in mind, God’s Hall of Fame

Is for eternity

This crowd on earth they soon forget

The heroes of the past.

They cheer like mad until you fail

and that’s how long you last.

But in God’s Hall of Fame

By just believing

on His Son

Inscribed you’ll find your name.

I tell you, friend, I wouldn’t trade

My name, however small,

That’s written there beyond the stars

In that Celestial Hall,

For any famous name on earth,

Or glory that they share;

I’d rather be an unknown here

And have my name up there.

 —

**Unger, Merrill F. Archaeology and the Old Tesatament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954) 107-112

The Origin of the Book of Genesis: A Thought

Will James worked his way through the west, ranch to ranch, which gave him background for some of his greatest cowboy stories.  John Erickson, of Hank the Cowdog fame, worked ranches in the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma which gives depth to the ranch that Hank runs security on in his 50+ books.  Baxter Black spent years as a large animal vet in feedlots and ranches throughout the Rockies and rubbed elbows with farmers and ranchers who have lived the stories and poems he pens.  These experts in cowboys and cowboy life lived what they wrote.

Sunday morning the Church where my wife attend when we’re in town, began a 66 week series through every book of the Bible.  A few years back, for a youth group lesson, I bought a book called Manga Mutiny, a manga re-telling of Genesis to the middle of Exodus.  It was the only way I could get some of our students excited about the book of Genesis.  But I was challenged when I first opened up the book and it began in Exodus, with Moses around a campfire talking with his people.  It was then that a flashback took over the book, with Moses narrating the events of Genesis.

Genesis was compiled and written by Moses.  I hesitate to use the word “compiled” for fear that it may be misunderstood as an embrace of source criticism and confused with the documentary hypothesis.  These theories of the origin of Genesis and the Torah, are radically mistaken.  In studying the structure and purpose of Genesis, as well as its connection to Exodus and the rest of the Pentateuch, it would make sense that Moses would compile information and utilize sources in documenting the history of his people.

Genesis is divide into 10 sections, or toldoth’s, accounts of men and their lives.  Men like Adam, Noah, Abraham and others, each have a toldoth that documents their activity and their progeny.  In Genesis 5.1, the word translated “written account” [sepher] is always used of physically written accounts, which differentiates this account from the other toldoth’s in Genesis.  This argument points to Moses composing Genesis with some kind of source material…but where would he find it?

There are three theories that dominate the location of composition debate surrounding Genesis.  Theory 1 argues for an Egyptian origin.  The use of Egyptian vocabulary throughout Genesis, argues that the author was definitely familiar with Egyptian society and culture.  This theory also accounts for the sudden rise in nationalistic identity within Moses in Exodus 2.11.  All the school of the palace could have involved a history lesson about Joseph and the shepherds, though doubtful becasue of the tension caused by the New King who didn’t know Joseph or his people (Ex. 1.8)  This theory looks to minimize the burning bush conversation as the catalyst for Moses’ actions and relationship with the Lord (Ex. 3-4).

A second theory has been put forth by Dr. Thomas Sharp in his Creation Truth Foundation video, Evolution: The Greatest Deception of All.  He argues for a composition of Moses after the Lord shows his backside.  The last time he descended the mountain, he found the people partying around the Golden Calf (Ex. 32).  He smashed the tablets containing the words of the Lord in disgust (Ex 32.19).  Now at the Tent of Meeting, Moses is speaking to the Lord and asks to see His glory (Ex. 33.18).  God says that “you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” (Ex 33.23)  He passed in front of Moses and Moses saw his backside [‘achor].  Sharp postulates that backside is a metaphorical term for past works.  At this time, Moses instead of seeing the trailing end of God’s glory [kavod], he is seeing God’s past works.  The problem with this interpretation lies in the understanding of ‘achor as a literal term.  Moses saw something tangible from that cleft.  ‘achor is never used in a metaphorical sense in its 41 uses in the Old Testament.  It is used of literal retreats by armies, people being turned back from a place, and literal hindquarters.  I am not suggesting that God had taken a bodily form, for that would mis-apply the anthropomorphism, however, Moses saw something there, not a flashback.

When was Genesis composed?  I believe there is a case to be made for Moses’ first trip up the Mountain of Sinai in Exodus 19 for a couple reasons: 1) “keep my covenant” (19.5) is a reference back to the covenant that God made with Abraham in Genesis 12, 15.  Exodus 2. 24 mentions this covenant and it is at the forefront of the setting of the book of Exodus, the journey out of Egypt. This is the most recent covenant, the one they are living under now, from 600 years prior.  2) “out of all nations you will be my treasured possession” (Ex. 19.5)  Where did this thinking and this story originate…Genesis.  The book of Genesis is very clear about the value that God placed on His people.  The reason for their value originated in the story of Genesis. 3) “the whole earth is mine” (19.5) can only speak back to His creative process found in Genesis 1-2.  4) This is the first extended conversation that Moses has had with the Lord outside of his calling in Exodus 3-4.  During that discussion God and Moses focused on the problem at hand, with no natural place to put a history lesson.

Taking these three reasons under consideration, as well as the other two theories faults, I believe that Exodus 19, provides the best context for Moses composition and understanding of Genesis at the word and commission of the Lord.

A Bad Collision

A Collision in Process
A Collision in Process

“No one ever bought a ticket to see a bullfighter get away from a bull.”  This was my consolation, without thinking mind you, to a bullfighting student that had just got freight-trained by a large and angry bovine.  The sad part is its true.   No one goes to a rodeo wanting to see someone get run over, but they certainly don’t want to miss it if it happens.  The collision, the tension is what keeps people coming back.  If everyone who tied their hand in and nodded their head stepped off after 8 seconds, then it would become boring.  With each and every ride, every bullfight, there is a certain amount of unpredictablity and danger.  WIth each story the same rings true.  Every story has conflict in it and just like the collision you see above, the fault can be placed squarely on me.

In Genesis 1 and 2, everything God had created was good.  In the case of Adam and Eve, it was very good.  God had created man and woman with some specific purposes that were good for them.  He created Adam to work in the garden, to rule and care for the earth, to lead the relationship with Eve.  With Eve, she was created to bring children into this world and to help and support Adam.  Together they were created to comfort and support one another, to become one flesh, a to walk and talk with God.  All these things were very good when God created man and woman.

Enter the snake.

Adam and Eve were in paradise, living with God, when the snake showed up.

His first words to Adam and Eve reveal his mission of distortion: “Did God really say…”  Satan’s mission is to distort, warp, and alter the things of God.  Satan questions the words of God (Gen 3.1) and then he questions the goodness of God (Gen 3.4-5).  Satan’s charge, that God is keeping the good stuff from Adam and Eve, pushes the right buttons and they succumb to the temptation.  This story is a little too familiar.  How often do we feel like God is hoarding the good stuff?  How many times have you felt like God was killing your fun with His rules?  Sex in the confines of marriage…huh?  Serving the Lord with your finances?  Laying your life down for others?  Focusing on others needs instead of our own?

Often the thought in the back of my mind is similar to the thought Satan gave to the first couple…”You better take care of yourself because God won’t!”  So we choose to go it alone.  Follow our own desires.  Make our own rules.  Choose our own path.

This path runs the opposite direction of God.  And I, like Adam and Eve, take the fruit, take care of ourselves, and disobey God.  The collision happens and the tension arrives in the story.  A bad collision between a holy God and His very good, yet independent creation.

This collision turned everything upside down: work (2.15) became toil (3.17); ‘be fruitful’ (1.28) became ‘increased pains’ (3.16); ‘naked and no shame’ (2.25) became ‘covered and hidden’ (3.7); and ‘walking with God in the Garden’ (3.8) became ‘banishment’ (3.23).  Man (and Woman’s) purpose had become tainted with their disobedience.  The tension has arrived in the story.

The collision happens in Genesis 3 for the same reason it happens today, we don’t trust that God knows what He is doing.  I caused the collision in Genesis 3.  I was there with Adam and Eve…I ate the fruit…and take it from a guy who has been in a few collisions, there are always consequences.

For the wages of sin is death…(Romans 6.23)

A Good Beginning

He was on the phone pacing in the dorms at Rodeo Bible Camp.  I could tell it was a pretty serious conversation he was having on the phone.  I grabbed a couple more thing and headed to the door when he hit his knees and started crying.  I could barely make out his words through the sobs.  Walking over to him, I knelt down and put my hand on his boot.  Doctors had just found tumors in his Dad’s bladder and were rushing him into surgery.  I felt like I had stepped into the middle of a story that was going terribly wrong.

I had missed the beginning of the rodeo.  I had been at a camp the week before and it ended Saturday morning.  Tricia and I sped toward the arena and arrived in plenty of time for the bulls.  There was a different feeling at the rodeo.  I walked towards the trailer of one of the stock contractors and found his wife standing outside talking with another woman.  She was telling her about the accident that had happened the night before as they were running calves through.  The horse accident resulted in a broken pelvis and a world turned on its head for this family for the next 8 months or so.  I walked into a story that had gone terribly bad.

The message came across my phone between clinic times at camp.  He fights bulls at the PRCA level and was up north in Minnesota when he texted to chat.  I finished up what I was doing and called him back.  We chatted for a while about rodeo, travel, and life on the road.  Every time I talk to him I get a little jealous of him.  But then he told me about how he was struggling with traveling this year.  His wife, who had traveled everywhere with him for the last 2 summers, ever since they were married, has developed a back problem.  This started a problem with the insurance company, doctors, and others.  She just wants to travel with him, he just wants her there, but her back wont let her.  As I spoke with him, there was no jealousy present this time, but a feeling that I had stepped into a story gone wrong.

Stories go wrong all the time…its called conflict.  Conflict is great for TV ratings and DVD Sales, but horrible in day-to-day life.  There is no escaping it however, because everyone of us was born into a story gone terribly wrong.

Genesis starts off the story of God’s interaction with man like this “In the beginning God…” [berisith ‘Elohim].  At the very first, before all else, was God.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit existed as a community, three persons in one being having the same desires and will.  God wasn’t dependent on anyone or anything, but the love and community was so perfect, that God decided to create something to share it with.  So…”In the beginning God created…”  He took to building, creating, molding, forging.  Jesus was there as God “spoke” [d-b-r] the Universe into existence (John 1.1-3).  The Holy Spirit loves creating and played His active role in creation.

In this process, everything was created.  All the matter and energy that ever was came out of God’s creativity in the beginning.  At the end of all this process after 5 days of creating, on the 6th day, God makes man and woman to look like Him and to show Him off (Genesis 1.26-28).  God had started this whole creation process with Man in mind.  With all of the rest of creation God declared it good, but with this new piece of handiwork, God declared it “very good”.

The story of humanity has changed quite a bit since God declared us very good.  The “very good” has become very seldom as we deal with cancer, divorce, neglect, abuse, death, sickness, deceit, greed, and toil.  “Very good” is not a word we would use to describe the world we live in.  The second everyone of us was born, we stepped into a story gone very wrong.

But know that the story began very good.  We have a good God who created us to live in his presence forever.  We may have walked into a story gone bad, but it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Bull Names

Crooked Nose of Harry Vold
Crooked Nose of Harry Vold

Names convey so much about their bearer. At the point in Hondo where Angie Lowe learns the man sleeping on her cabin floorK is the famed Calvary rider, Hondo Lane, she views him completely different.  When the Spaniard, in Gladiator, takes of his helmet and reveals himself to be Maximus, the leader of the Free Companies, the movie takes a different turn.  Names carry with them, history, character, and personality.  When the Regulators hear the name Buckshot Roberts, they marvel at the fact that “he’s killed more people than small pox” and you can hear the tension in their voices.  A name has the ability to convey a lot about its bearer.

In Genesis 1-2, God’s character is revealed in not one, but two names.  Each name used in a way to highlight His array of attributes.  In Genesis 1, ‘elohim is the Creator who is all-powerful.  Genesis 2 introduces the LORD, Yahweh, who is close and personal, who does things kind of the way we do them.  When God is dealing with man directly, Adam in the garden, Israel in the desert, the prophets in Jerusalem, the name Yahweh is used showing His proximity to man.  Yahweh breathes and forms (Gen 2.7); He walks (3.8) and speaks (2.18).  It is no coincidence that this name was given to Moses by God at the burning bush (Exodus 3.14) to tell Pharaoh who is now calling the shots and will be with Israel: Yahweh.  When God is triumphing over enemies, when creating, and ruling the earth, the name ‘elohim best describes Him.  ‘Elohim created [hb. Bara] from nothing (1.1) and made (1.26) man in his image; He blessed (1.28) and provided for man (1.29).  God has revealed Himself to man in these two names, and more adequately than in one name.

The two names of God, as He introduces Himself, as ‘elohim and Yahweh provide a glimpse of all the things He is as our relationship plays out.  Yahweh cares about our problems…and ‘Elohim is powerful enough to do something about it.  ‘Elohim’s power is displayed in the “hands” or the “arm” of Yahweh. The two names show with greater completeness the character and personality of the God we serve.

When you think about God, which “name” are you more drawn too?  An all-powerful ‘Elohim side of God, or a more personal Yahweh side?  Which is easier to worship, a close Yahweh or a transcendent ‘Elohim?  How does God, being both powerful enough to deal with our problems (‘Elohim) and personal enough to be in relationship to us (Yahweh) change the way we think about Him?  Two names for the same Entity (Person).  I for one am thankful that His names cover the expanse, the depth, the character and personality of who our Heavenly Father is: both powerful and personal.