A Date With the Awl

Body piercing has become pretty much acceptable just in the last ten years.  Studs are placed in a hole or piercing to make a permanent decoration.  I have seen a fair amount of it, and I think that a stud in the tongue has got to be the most intrusive.  (I recently read of a young girl who died after her tongue was pierced from an infection).

There is “body piercing” in scripture.  In Deuteronomy 15:12-18, slaves who are being set free by their master after six years of service, could, if they loved and were loved by their master, could choose to remain a slave to him.

“But if your slave says to you, “I don’t want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and has a good life with you,17 stick an awl through his ear into the door; he will be your slave for life. Also do this to a female slave.”

Deuteronomy 15:12-18

This was a decision that required elders to act as witnesses.  It was significant as well as completely binding.  I like to think of the ceremony to be kind of a cross between a wedding and a circumcision. (Sounds fun, huh?!)

The slave would be led to a doorpost and the master would take an awl, and push it through his ear lobe.  This designated the slave to be forever “owned” by a specific master.  Herein lies a picture of the Christian.

Many times in the New Testament we are called to be servants (slaves) of Christ.

Peter, Paul, James, and Jude referred to themselves as “bond servants of Jesus Christ” in their epistles.This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is awl-piercing-faith-1.jpg This is not a forced servitude. It’s a choice made in love!

There are many believers who have done the same, they have fallen in love with their Savior.  They do not plan on a life apart from Him.  So spiritually they have gone to the doorpost, the awl is pushed through their ear, and they are marked from that point on.

Although the ear was pierced physically in the Old Testament, a different kind of piercing takes place in the New.  In Romans 6:16 we read,

“Surely you know that when you give yourselves like slaves to obey someone, then you are really slaves of that person. The person you obey is your master. You can follow sin, which brings spiritual death, or you can obey God, which makes you right with him.”

Romans 6:16, (NCV)

When the prodigal son returned home from the far country he fell before his father and humbly ask,make me your servant.” (Luke 15:19,21) He, in essence, was saying to the father, “pierce my ear.” The father made him a son, but the attitude of the son’s heart had changed to the heart of a servant. So it must be with us. Only then will we live a “pierced ear” life, revealing to all that we are servants of Jesus Christ!

“Savior, I know Thou hast allowed me absolute liberty, to serve Thee, or to go my own way. I would serve Thee forever, for I love my Master. I will not go out free. Mark my ear, Lord, that it might respond only to Thy voice.”

— Jim Elliot, Missionary and Martyr

 

Comprehensive Protection

daniel3

The Book of Daniel contains the acts and welfare of the Jewish people in Babylon. They are captives and so many of the stories shared here are accounts of spirituality under duress. King Nebuchadnezzar, in an attempt to unify his kingdom, proclaims himself to be a god. He commissions a 90-foot statue to be erected; he orders that, on a prearranged moment, all would fall down and worship.

Thgold statueere are three Jewish men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who are brought to the king with the charge of ‘failure to worship.’ They refused to bow at the statue at the signal. They were observed standing when everyone else was kneeling. Non-compliance to the king meant the death penalty, but that doesn’t deter the three.

Their faith will not allow them to sin in this way.

They are resolute. The first, second, and third commandments clearly forbid the worship of all idols. There were no other options. Perhaps they valued their souls more than they valued their lives. In some things, there can be no accommodation– no compromise. Standing before the king and threatened with death, they declare their allegiance to the living God.

Dan. 3:16-18:

 “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

The king is enraged.

Few have ever spoken and defied him like this (and lived). He orders the furnace to be heated up like never before.  Here the king is making a statement. He will not tolerate this kind of ‘rebellion’ in his kingdom. All of his governing leaders will witness what he does to ‘traitors.’ These Hebrews must be made an example.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods”

(v.v. 24-25)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are thrown into the fire. The men who escorted them are killed by the heat. Ironically, Nebuchadnezzer can’t protect his own men from death while the three Jews are not touched, not even a little.

They are joined by a fourth man and they walk around in the midst of the flames.

Suddenly, Nebuchadnezzer realizes that the God of Israel is not only a real God, but a force to be reckoned with. The men’s faith has saved them. (And his men are dead.)

The complete story is quite compelling. The king orders all that the real God be worshipped. Henceforth, no one shall ever speak against this God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are promoted in the kingdom.

The lessons for today are many,

  1. God’s Word is to be obeyed no matter what it costs.

  2. When confronted, we must never hedge over our beliefs.

  3. God is present with us in our furnace, we’re never alone.

  4. In the fire, our faith will ultimately triumph. One way or another.

We may be standing in similar times. Faith will be tested. The Word must be believed and trusted. It is ‘comprehensive protection’ for our lives. Obedience to God will lead us into difficult places, but faith will triumph.

“When you have no helpers, see your helpers in God. When you have many helpers, see God in all your helpers. When you have nothing but God, see all in God. When you have everything, see God in everything. Under all conditions, stay thy heart only on the Lord.”

    Charles Spurgeon

When Teachability Rides a Chariot

I think this post will wander around a bit, we’ll see if the Father will speak to us somehow.

I really think our lives are made up of the decisions we’re making. At least, it sometimes sees that way.

Some decisions are like ‘forks’ in the road.  They’re made and then they shunt us in another direction. Most are minor–(will it be McDonalds or Pizza Hut?) But the biggies really alter us–very quickly we see that the road is going to take us in a radically different path.

Sometimes, if we’re honest, we will admit to backtracking; retracing our route back to the point we turned.  A lot of time it’s too late, and the moment has past. But we will sometimes learn that sometimes even our detours are part of the journey. (Amazing, isn’t? But He controls it all, and that’s comforting.)

I think I’m starting to learn how to receive correction from others. 

I’ve been mulling over the decision of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:30-31, he wanted to understand the truth:

“So when Philip ran toward the chariot, he heard the man reading from Isaiah the prophet [on his Kindle]. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
 31 He answered, “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?” Then he invited Philip to climb in and sit with him.”

We see here such a very ‘thoughtful humbleness’– a teachableness of the heart that this eunuch seems to have learned.  He is confident enough in himself to acknowledge that he just doesn’t know. He invites Philip to a Bible study in the chariot.

We are responsible for our receptivity to truth. 

It’s our personal decision to either seek or not seek, to learn, or not to learn.  No one else can do this for us.  We come to a decision point and we go the way things seem to direct us, or we don’t. Again, we must choose.

Sometimes to not make a decision, is a decision.

The book of Proverbs is saturated with ideas on being guided by our humility when it comes in contact with truth.  Furthermore, there are many warnings about receiving correction and reproof gracefully.  For me, I’m learning slowly to receive hard counsel.

When my wife and I made the decision to work in the migrant camps in Mexico there was one elder who kept saying “no!” At first it was a real issue for us. We sort of resented it. But we began to see the blessing of his resistance. It caused us to really analyze our decision, and “count the cost.” We were stepping into a very hard place, and we needed that voice. We were being called to break in “new ground.” It was to be a challenge.

It seems that scriptural truth is almost always negative when it’s first encountered. It often irritates more than it comforts.

It often will not sit well, and I will try to shake it off.  But truth can be remarkably persistent.  ‘Forgive your brother’, the Holy Spirit says.  And you say right away, ‘Not a chance!’  But, give it time, and the Word will soften rock.  If you respond properly, humbly, you be able to make the right decision.

One more thing, Jesus told us in Matthew 18:3,

“I promise you this. If you don’t change and become like a child, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”

We’ll need to be a complete alteration in our hearts if we are to accommodate His command.  Becoming a child is more difficult as an adult– then becoming an adult is for a child.  Becoming small again takes a great amount of brokenness and it’s never really mastered.

God fully intends to work with you in this. 

God wants you to learn teachableness. He brings others to direct you. The Holy Spirit ignites the Word that’ll light your path. He doesn’t seem to ever give up.  He is wonderfully persistent–He never really does give up.

“The intelligent man is always open to new ideas. In fact, he looks for them.”

Proverbs 18:15, LB

Number Them

 

          “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” –ESV

 
“Teach us how short our lives  really are so that we may be wise.” –NLT

 “Oh! Teach us to live well!
      Teach us to live wisely and well!”– MSG 

Psalm 90:12, three different translations

Growing up we must learn different things.

We’re taught the alphabet, how to brush our teeth and use deodorant.  We need to be educated, or tutored into many different skills.  Our teachers direct and guide us, they provide for us an understanding of the skills we need to acquire.  As we advance through their instruction, we grow in proficiency.

The Psalmist comes to the realization that he needs to develop a particular skill.  He desperately wants to craft his life to be honorable and obedient.  He turns to God and seeks His aid.  The psalmist seeks a ‘teacher’ who will instruct him.

Our own lives are often chaotic and foolish. 

We live in a great deal of ignorance, strained relationships and bad decisions.  Most definitely we are ‘saved by faith,’ but the course of our lives can still be difficult. There is much to be learned in the spiritual world. We’ll make many mistakes.

The author of Psalm 90 doesn’t want to continue doing stupid things.  He has a need, and he is pretty adamant that God will help him.  Part of what he understands is that he needs to get ahold of the reality of the ‘shortness’ of his life. That’s a good start.

He must understand that he has a limited lifespan–an expiration date. 

He refuses the deception that life will just always continue unfolding.  He doesn’t buy it.  He counts on God to pace him, and to keep him from recklessly wasting his life.  He is asking for restraints. He must learn to say “no” and say “yes” to many things.

I encourage you to consciously make this step.  Be deliberate in this.  If we lack wisdom, we need to ask Him for it.  Apart from His presence, our lives grow increasingly irrational.  Living without restraints will lead us into more foolishness and despair. We must learn to say “no.”

“Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

Ephesians 5:16, ESV

 

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