Not by Name

Everybody enjoys a good western.  The good guys, the shooting, the cattle drives, the anachronisms.  An anachronism is anything that belongs in another period of time than which it exists.  Occasionally, western movies can be guilty of them.  Jet Contrails in the sky over a wagon train, hereford cattle on a drive, and even the occasional radar tower in the back ground of a posse chase.

Over the years, scholars have attacked the Bible because of alleged anachronisms.  Domesticated camels in Genesis, according to the leading Biblical archaeologist of the first 50 years of the 20th century, was an anachronism of biblical proportions (pun intended); however, recent research has proven the early domestication of camels and their place in the patriarchal narratives.(Camels and the Patriarchal Narratives)  The most often cited anachronism is the use of the name Yahweh in Abraham’s story.  Moses has been herding sheep for 40 years in the desert when he stumbles upon a bush that talks to him.  His instructions were to go to the most powerful man in the world and demand of him freedom for his people.  Moses excuses’ aside, he goes and is met with the expected resistance from Pharaoh.  When Pharaoh answers, Moses’ excuses turns into blame.

“Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘O, Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people?  Is this why you sent me?  Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.'” (Ex. 5.22-23)

Moses complains to God and he voices his anger about the situation that he is now in the middle of.  But God’s reply to him is more an appeal to His character rather than the current situation.  Moses is looking for an answer to the problem and God, instead, reveals His identity.

“God also said to Moses, ‘I am the Lord.  I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord (Yahweh) I did not make myself known to them.  I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens.  Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.'”(Ex 6.2-5)

Abram, back in Genesis 12-15, was spoken to by Yahweh (12.1), worshipped Yahweh (13.4), cut a covenant with Yahweh (15.1), and trusted in Yahweh (15.6).  Yahweh had a relationship with Abram.  So, then, why would Yahweh say that He did not make himself known to them?

The hebrew word for know” is the word yada’.  It is a word that conveys intimate knowldege, understanding, and experience.  Adam “knew” [yada] Eve (Gen 4.1) and the Israelites “experienced” [yada] all that God did in the conquest of the Promised land (Josh 24.31).  Yada is experience, knowledge, and wisdom…stuff that Abram dreamed about with the Lord.

Abram only had a theoretical knowledge of Yahweh.  Yahweh is the covenantal name of God…the close, personal name of God.  Abram knew about Yahweh, but hadn’t fully experienced Him.  Most of the time in Exodus, yada is used of God in connection with His power to save His people through the Exodus.  Yahweh’s full identity, his covenantal, personal, redemptive identity, would be shown in his work in delivering His people from bondage.  Abram didn’t have this practical, experiential knowledge, the yada of the Lord.

 

The Searching Eyes of the Lord

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Jimmy Schumacher inventor of the walking clown barrel

“Wisdom comes from good judgment, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”  The cowboy proverb is never truer than when you get a bunch of college guys together.  One night during spring semester boredom had set in.  We headed out to Lucas’ house, built a bon fire, and ideas for entertainment began to swirl.

Lucas had come to posses a bullfighting clown barrel.  As with most things that come into his possession, zebu’s, musket’s, miniature horses, vehicles, it was known only to him how it became his.  The rest of us just knew it was cool.   Late one night around the campfire, the clown barrel was brought up as a form of entertainment.  We weren’t really sure what we were going to do with it, but it was steel, round and in close proximity to a hill.  I can’t remember who it was that climbed in first, and I can’t really remember who suggested we roll down the hill, but it was probably Lucas on both accounts.  As we hauled the barrel up the hill, there wasn’t a single ounce of pause in our brains that we were about to embark on one great night.  Matt jumped in the barrel atop the hill.  With a short countdown, the rest of us gave him a shove.  As the moonlight reflected off the barrel careening down the hill, we were mesmerized at the pace in which it rolled.  Then we noticed the moonlight reflecting off the creek at the bottom of the hill.  The barrel was not a flotation device and as it splashed into the cool waters of the creek, we who were on top of the hill sprinted down to the bottom attempting to free Matt from the clown barrel as it came to rest on the bottom of the creek.  He got out, no one died, it was a good night.  Needless to say our judgment may have been poor that night.  Dorm life is just as detrimental to good judgment.  Taking a shot to the back with a water-ballon launcher form 15ft away, chair-jousts at 2 in the morning, office chair racing on asphalt, in a place of higher learning, wisdom can be scarce as jackalopes.

Judgment is the ability to make a decision about something, good or bad, the capacity to take information and make a decision.  Often times we think of God’s judgment as a negative thing, which it very well can be.  But God’s judgment can be a favorable one as well.  Scripture speaks of the eyes [‘ayin] of the Lord [Yahweh].  The eyes of the Lord is His judgment of man’s actions.  The Lord looks at what we do, what we offer, what we live, and makes His judgement.

The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth (2 Chron. 16.9; Zech 4.10) searching, watching, and observing the attitudes and actions of humanity. They act on behalf of those committed [salem] to Him. This Hebrew word for committed, salem, is the word for completeness, wholeness, and lavish.  A heart that is lacking nothing undevoted to God. Think about Noah, in Genesis 6, he found favor [chen…grace] in the eyes of the Lord because of his righteousness, blameless actions and his relationship with God (Gen. 6.8-9).  It was King David (1 Kings 15.5) and great Kings of Judah, like Asa, Jehosophat, Joash, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah and Josiah.  Kings that led their people in truth and commitment to the Lord.  They did good in the eyes of the Lord.  The stood for truth, acted on their faith, and walked with the Lord.  The were judged as having done good in His eyes.

His eyes not only judges things as good, but see the wicked as well (Prov 15.3).  Seven times in Judges the people of Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord.  They served the Baals, forsook God, and sinned against the Lord.  The Kings of the Northern Kingdom did nothing but evil in the Lord’s eyes.  They served other gods, prostituted themselves in idol worship, trusted in other nations, and refused to listen to the prophets.  They did so much evil in the eyes of the Lord, Amos would prophesy about them: “Surely the eyes of the Sovereign Lord are on the sinful kingdom.  I will destroy it from the face of the earth—yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob.” (Amos 9.8)  The Southern Kingdom of Judah managed to do right in God’s eyes for many years, but their ultimate down fall was disobedience as Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord (Jer. 7.30-8.3)

When God looks upon this earth, when His eyes wander over this planet, what does he see and what will his judgment be?  When His sight falls upon us, will He see truth (Jer. 5.3), those who fear Him, hope in Him (Psalm 33.18), and those who are righteous (Ps. 34.15)?  Men like David and Noah.  Or does his eyes fall upon the wicked? Those that bow down to other gods, that place created things above the Creator, that take advantage of and exploit their neighbors? When it comes to us, are we serving the Lord faithfully? Are we honoring the Lord with our service, our work, our family, our worship, our life?  When God looks upon our actions will he judge that it is good, or does He watch in horror as we are careening down the hill of sin with nothing to stop us?

Our Long-Nosed Lord

Penny the dog
Penny the dog

When I was first training Penny, I couldn’t find a leash to use, so I used a 30’ lasso.  She mastered the simple commands real quick.  Sit, stay, down, roll, were all things that she could do.  I had just bought a book about training stock dogs, so I set out to work on some stock training with her.  Penny and I set out to work with a few sheep just to see how she would do.  When I let her go the first time she freaked.  Instead of herding the sheep she took off straight towards the herd and lept over the back of one of them.  I began yelling at her from across the pen.  She did a great job of pretending to not hear me.  Three laps around the pen later she came to a sliding stop at my feet.  I attached my lasso to her collar and let her take off again.  I commanded “down” and she felt a quick jerk as she neared the herd.  I didn’t have too many problems with her during this phase of her training because I was in position to enforce my commands.  She had the freedom to act, a 30’ check cord, but accountability in her actions.  This is the same relationship we have with our big-nosed God.

The Hebrew word for “nose” is an ambiguous word.  In the same  way that “hand” and “power” of the Lord are inter-changeable, the “face” and “presence” of the Lord can be substituted for one another, the “nose” and “anger” of the Lord are semantically connected.  It makes sense really.  Have you ever seen someone’s nose and face turn red when they get angry.  If not, just come visit me when I’m working on my truck or playing golf and in thirty seconds, you will have a clear picture.  The authors of Scripture, when talking about anger, knew this human phenomenon of blood rushing to peoples faces at times of rage so the Hebrew writers used the same word and nuance for nose and anger.

The Lord is described multiple times as having a long-nose.  In the NIV this expression is translated as “slow to anger”.  The first time the phrase appears in scripture, it comes in the Lord’s description of himself.  God had just passed by Moses on Mt. Sinai, showing off his glory. (Ex. 33.14-23)  Moses next experience is to chisel another 2 stone tablets (Ex. 34.1) on account his breaking the last two. (Ex 32.19)  The next morning, Moses carried the new tablets up on the mountain and the Lord descended in a cloud.  There on Mt. Sinai, Moses and the Lord stood and had yet another conversation.  This one would begin with God, as he passed by Moses, describing himself:

The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger [lit. long of nose], abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.  Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…”

The Lord, in his own words, is ‘long of nose”.  Presumably, and I’m only speculating here, it seems to be a reference to the time it take’s God’s long nose to turn red.

Regardless of the explanation of the origin of the idiom, the meaning is clear: long of nose is equated to slow to anger.  This is a central aspect of the Lord’s character.  It surfaces at key times in His relationship with his people.  After the people rebel, grumbling against Moses and God about bringing them out of Egypt, it was Moses who reminded God of His strength in being “long of nose”. (Num. 14.17-18)  As most can attest, there is considerable strength in not blowing your top!  When the people had returned from exile, to resettle Jerusalem, they spend ¼ of the day confessing their sins, and another ¼ of the day worshipping and reading from the Book of the Law.  At this time, the Levites preached to them a message of their history, quoting God’s self-description (Neh. 9.17) to remind the people of God’s worthiness of praise.  David, leading the way for the Levites, used it as a declaration of praise (Psalm 103.8;145.8).  When we see God for who he really is, worship is our natural response.  David affirms God, in the same way, amidst his prayer times (Psalm 86.15).  Joel and Jonah both latch on to the “long nose of the Lord” during their own messages and trials (Jonah 4.2; Joel 2.13).  All of these references were rooted in the Lord’s revelation of His character in Exodus 34…but why would the size of the Lord’s nose really matter?  Moving from semantics to theology…

The context of this phrase, “long of nose”, provides some coloring to its significance.  Yahweh also “maintains love to thousands and forgives wickedness.”  Just because God gets angry, sometimes its even with his people, it doesn’t change the fact that he loves us and forgives us.  The next phrase, “et he does not leave the guilty unpunished” shows his justice and his hatred of sin.  Our love of something is only proportionate to our hatred of that which opposes that love.  A dad’s love for his daughter, is shown in the lengths he will go to defend her.  As a buddy of mine says, “he’s got a gun, a shovel, and land….I doubt anyone would find you!”, when a young man arrives to take his daughter out.  Yahweh’s slowness to anger is the balancing act between showing love and dishing out wrath.  Where as I can let others get away with too much at the expense of those I love, I sometimes am too quick to anger in dealing with others.  My “nose” is often too short.

The size of God’s nose shows us his passion, his desire, for us.  He loves us so much that he doesn’t wipe of off the face of the earth at every mis-step, but he hates sin so much that he acts upon it with vengence for what it has done to us.  Sin doesn’t define us nor does it become our identity…sin is something we as those that were created in the image of God, struggle with, get bound too, and enslave ourselves too.  God is slow to anger, meaning he does act, but the leash is long.

If you were listing God’s attributes, where would you put ‘slow to anger’ on the list?  What is one specific example of a lesson that it took you a while to learn from God?

Seeing the Face of the Lord

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Getting the attention of middle school students is a common fight, but I didn’t think I would have trouble getting the attention of a horse.  A few years back, I was starting a colt for an older gentlemen.  He told me that this horse was hard headed, but most of my interactions with it had gone real well.  I stepped into the round pen one day expecting to continue with the training as planned. I began by running him around the round pen, first to the right and then the left.  After 15 minutes of keeping the horse moving, I stepped back, taking the pressure off the horse.  I caught his eye as he turned and faced me.  He stood, 20 feet from me, collected, attentive, and ready.  The second his gaze broke from me, I sent him to the right again.  After repeating this story for another 40 minutes, my patience had been tested to its end.  I stepped back in exhaustion, and sent the horse around the pen one last time.  This time the second I took the pressure off, he turned and faced.  And for the first time, for just a couple seconds, he waited for my command.  I took a step towards him and he lowered his head, but kept his eye on me. What I was looking for out of that horse was a connection.  I wanted him to be ready for whatever I asked him to do.  When his face turned toward me, his eyes connected with mine, I knew that he was present and ready to work.

Last post was about the hand of the Lord.  The hand was the power of God in action.  When the OT writers conveyed God’s power, they could say “power” or “his hand” and it would mean the same thing.  The face of Yaweh then is about His presence with His people.  After the “hand of Yahweh” had delivered Israel from Egypt (Ex. 13), the face of the Lord was Presence with his people.

The “Face of the Lord” [hb. paneh] is a picture of his intimacy, relationship, and presence with his people.  Moses spoke to Yahweh, the Lord, “face to face” [paneh] at the Tent of meeting, as the Israelites were camped after leaving Egypt (Ex. 33.11).  It was in the same way that you or I would talk to a friend, just two buddies hanging out.  God’s Presence was there.  Then 3 verses later, after Moses had asked the Lord who would go with him, Yahweh replied, “My Presence [paneh] will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33.14)  The same word translated “face” in verse 11 was translated “presence” in verse 14.  The face of the Lord was the presence of God with His people.  Nearly a year later, his presence would need to be remembered and celebrated.

The book of Numbers isn’t a really exciting or positive book.  The book starts at Sinai and ends on the plains of Moab, just across the river from their final destination.  The problem lies in how they arrived there.  It has been a struggle for Israel as they traveled, a struggle documented in the book of Numbers.  The journey from Egypt to Canaan, was plagued with complaints, 9 times the nation of Israel Complained to God on the trip.  “We’re hungry? We’re thirsty? Someone’s touching me?” you remember car trips with your kids…This was their journey.  On top of complaints, people were killed on the journey.  The ground split open under Korah and his sons for their sins (Num. 16.31) and fire consumed the 250 who were offering incense (Num 16.34).  Their punishment also came in response to a negative report on the land of Canaan.   When the spies returned they scared the people with a report of impenetrable walls and giants.  When God heard his people grumbling about the land, He answered by declaring that this generation would fall in the desert in a 40-year wandering (Num. 14.26-35).  Just before these events would happen, God wanted his people to know something very important.

Camped in the desert of Sinai, the Lord said to Moses:  “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites.  Say to them: ‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face [paneh] shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turned his face [paneh] toward you and give you peace.”  This is actually, the oldest piece of Biblical text that archaeology has uncovered (The Silver Scrolls and Numbers 6).  Dating to the seventh century B.C.E. and written on a silver amulet in paleo-hebrew script, is the text of Numbers 6.24-25.  This shows that these verses were at the forefront of the Jewish mindset.  The Hebrews, based on this verse understood that life is to be lived gazing upon and acting before the face of the Lord and living in his presence.  God is telling his people that during this journey to Canaan, that a blessed life is one that God face is before.  The blessing, to be given to all the Israelites, is to remind them of God’s presence with them.  The presence that was shown in the quail and manna (Num 11); the shoes and clothes on their journey (Deut 8.4-5); the pillar of fire and cloud above the tabernacle (Ex. 40.36-38); a simple reminder that the Face of the Lord shone upon the nation of people.  When the face of the Lord was there, communication was possible, action was possible, and comfort was given.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus arrives on the scene as Immanuel, “God is with us” (Matthew 1.23); a gift to Earth of the Lord’s presence.  When Peter and the disciples see Jesus walking on the water and call out to him, Jesus responds, “Take courage! I am. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14.27); a reminder of His presence in the midst of the storm.  The book ends with Jesus’ Great commission, “and surly I am with you always to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28.20); a reminder of his presence forever.  In each case, the face of the Lord turned to His people.  In a tangible picture of God’s words in Numbers, the “face of the Lord” shinned upon us!

The blessing of Numbers 6, was central to Israelites throughout their history.  A reminder that God’s presence was vital to their survival.  How vital is the “face of the Lord” to us today?  How often do we go one with life, without a second thought to His presence?  In what ways does he communicate with us that he is present?  Where will you see his “face” today?

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.