God’s Amazing Plan: Part 1

Last week, I said,
“So we know that sin (transgression, offense, trespass) is disobedience to God, and that disobedience makes us unfit to be in His presence. If we remain in that corrupted, defiled state, all that remains for us is the eternal spiritual death called Hell.”

Then I said God had a plan.

God had a plan from the beginning. He knew Adam and Eve would sin, and He knew that He would make a way to reconcile mankind back to Himself.

I don’t know why He even bothered, but I’m glad He did!

Remember what He said when He cursed the serpent?

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. (Gen 3:15)

Did you notice that God’s reference to Eve’s offspring is singular? He and his, not they and their. Did He have a particular offspring in mind?

God’s plan was to send His Son, but He needed to wait for the right time, the right place, and the right family.

Abram was a descendant of Shem, one of Noah’s three sons who survived the flood by entering the ark.aGen1201Dore_AbrahamJourneyingIntoTheLandOfCanaan

Beginning in the 11th chapter of Genesis, and running through the end of the book, we learn of how God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, promised to make him a great nation (when he was childless) and gave him a child in his old age. God told Abraham that “all nations” would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3). The story continues with Abraham’s son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. Jacob had twelve sons, one of which was sold to slave traders by his brothers. That son was Joseph, and he would rise to be the right hand of Pharaoh, and save his family’s life during a great famine. Israel and his entire family moved to Egypt. aGen4605Dore_JacobGoethIntoEgypt

Before he died, Israel blessed his sons. The blessing on Judah is particularly interesting.

Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. you are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk. (Genesis 49:8-12, bold emphasis mine)

Genesis closes with the death of Joseph.

So what does all this have to do with God’s plan? Well, we know God told the serpent Eve’s offspring would crush his head. We also know that he told childless Abram that “all nations” would be blessed through him. We also know that Israel said that Judah would have the “ruler’s staff” and he would keep it until the one to whom it belonged came for it.

Who was the rightful owner of the staff?

Wait. There’s more.

Exodus continues the story of Israel’s descendants, only now they are in trouble. They have become numerous in Egypt and the current Pharaoh doesn’t remember Joseph. He only knows that there are too many Hebrews and they might try to overtake his kingdom. So, he made them slaves and went so far as to make them kill their newborn sons. That was about the time Moses was born. Moses’ family were descendants of Israel’s son Levi. God had a plan for Moses. He would use Moses to get His people out of Egypt and back to the land He had promised Abraham. Because Pharaoh was so hardhearted and stubborn, God sent ten plagues on Egypt.

The final plague in Egypt was the death of the first born.bExo1229Dore_TheFirstbornSlain

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt,“This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household…The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast…This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. (Ex 12: 1-3,5-8,11-14)

This is the first of seven annual feasts God established for the children of Israel. He would use them to set a pattern for future events. Their observance always required several sacrifices.

One feast came in the fall of the year. It was called the Day of Atonement. You may also recognize it for it’s Hebrew name Yom Kippur.

Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat. (Lev 16:6-10)

The high priest was required to make a sacrifice first for himself, then one for the whole nation. The whole process is outlined in Leviticus 16.

Just in case you were wondering about the necessity of blood sacrifice:

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. (Lev 17:11)

Hold that thought. It’s important.

We’ll get back to the feasts later. They figure into God’s plan

We’ve talked about Moses and the Law before. We’ve also talked about how Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land and how Joshua would take his place. Before he goes, Moses tells the Israelites about someone else.

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. (Deut 18:15)

Eventually, this prophet would be identified as “Messiah” or “anointed one”.

Like God promised, the children of Israel, led by Joshua entered and took control of the promised land of Canaan. Then Joshua died, and everything went down hill from there.

What about God’s plan?

We’ll we’ve already gone on long today, so come back next week and we’ll learn more about God’s amazing plan.

All Have Sinned

We’ve talked about the literal definition of the word translated as “sin”, and we’ve talked about how Jesus came to save us from sin by dying on the cross. If you missed them, you can find them here and here. There are a few more things we need to clarify about sin and salvation. Why did Jesus need to save us from sin? What’s the big deal? What exactly constitutes a sin

We know “sin” can also be described as offense or transgression, and with a more literal meaning of “missing the mark”. The latter refers to aiming at a target as with spear, or an arrow. I think we can all understand the concept of missing that bulls eye.

Well, after God created human beings, he set down some rules. It was pretty simple really. God gave Adam “dominion”, which generally means control, over all the earth. God would come every day and walk with Adam and Eve in the garden. How cool is that? The Creator of the universe coming over every night to just hang out.

However, He told them they could not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or the tree of life. He told them if they did, they would surely die.

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Image from page 18 of “The Bible panorama, or The Holy Scriptures in picture and story” (1891) Downloaded from Flikr

Well, without getting into the whole conversation between the serpent and Eve (we’ll save it for later), lets jump ahead to the fact that they, both Adam and Eve, disobeyed God and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As a result, they were cast from the garden The whole earth was cursed, and death entered the world.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the Lord God said to the serpent,

Because you have done this,
Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

To the woman he said,

I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said,

Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, You must not eat from it,’

Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:7-19)

aGen0324Dore_AdamAndEveDrivenOutOfEden

Their sin infected all of us.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God(Romans 3:23)

Everything we do has a consequence. The long term consequence of sin is death.

The one who sins is the one who will die… (Ezekiel 18:20a)

The wages of sin is death…(Romans 6:23a)

It doesn’t mean immediate death, although sometimes a person’s sin leads to the end of their (or someone else’s) physical life here on earth. This death is even more permanent than that. It is a spiritual death that makes separation from God permanent. Jesus called this place the darkness, as well as the blazing furnace, where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt 8:12, 13:41-42) It is also called the lake of fire and Hell.

Sin separates us from God. After they were banished from the garden of Eden, the Scripture never records another conversation between God and Adam and Eve. I imagine they missed those walks in the cool of the evening. Think of the regret. Sin brings that too. The Bible doesn’t say how long Eve lived, but Adam lived for 930 years. That is a long time to think: “If only…”

I don’t pretend to understand exactly how sin separates us from our holy and righteous God, but it does. It makes us unclean and defiled. We cannot stand in God’s presence. No matter how good we think we are, we can never be “good enough”. There is no such thing as being a “good person” in God’s eyes.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Is 64:6)

All sin, in all of it’s forms, boils down to one thing: disobedience to God.

What exactly does that look like?

In a nutshell? If God said “no” and you did it; that’s sin. If God said, “Do it” and you didn’t, that also is sin. How do we know what He wants? Look in His word, the Bible.

The Ten Commandments? That’s a good place to start getting an idea about what God had in mind.

Or this from Proverbs:

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community
(Proverbs 6:16-19

Jesus said,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matt 5:27-28)

But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Matt 15:18-19)

There are sins of commission (the things we do), and sins of omission (things we left undone).

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them (James 4:17)

As far as God is concerned, there are no grades of sin. One sin is exactly like the other to Him. Human beings count one sin worse than the other, but God counts them all the same. If you have ever in your life had one bad thought (even if you didn’t act on it), you are just as guilty before God as someone like Charles Manson.

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10)

Ok, so we know that sin (transgression, offense, trespass) is disobedience to God, and that disobedience makes us unfit to be in His presence. If we remain in that corrupted, defiled state, all that remains for us is the eternal spiritual death called Hell.

Thankfully, God didn’t want to leave us like that, and He had a plan.

God always has a plan, and His plan is always good.

Until next week.

Connie

Free Indeed

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Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash

Last week, we started talking about sin.

We are going to continue that conversation next week, and maybe a week or two after that, but today, I’m talking about freedom.

On July 4th, Americans will celebrate Independence Day; the day that our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. The document told King George of England that we no longer considered ourselves his subjects. Eight years later, we finally earned our freedom, but even then, not all were free. That wouldn’t come until 1865, when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery.

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Photo by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash

Freedom is a big deal to us, but if you asked the average person what freedom means, you will probably get a host of different answers.

Jesus talked about freedom too.

17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”(Luke 4:17-21)

Jesus told the Jews in the synagogue that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31-34)

Jesus said that his followers would know the truth and the truth would set them free. Later he would tell Thomas

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:16)

So His followers would know the truth that would set them free, and the Truth is Jesus Himself, as the only way to God.

Set them free from what?

Sin.

38“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38-39)

How did He do that?

He died.

aaron-burden-233841
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Rom 6:7)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Heb: 9:15)

and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, (Rev 1:5)

Why?

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

But why was it even necessary?

Next week.

Connie

The Unpopular Word

The word “sin” is unpopular; even in some churches. No one wants to hear what they are doing, or the way they are living their life, is wrong. We don’t want someone to point it out to us, and we definitely don’t want to hear that it will send us to hell.

Well, before we get into that, lets look at the word “sin” and see what it means.

According to Merriam-Webster.com, sin means
1. a : an offense against religious or moral law
b : an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible it’s a sin to waste food
c: an often serious shortcoming: fault
2 a : transgression of the law of God
b : a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God

Ok, so what does it mean according to the Bible? Well, lets’ find out.

Bible Gateway says sin is used 326 times in the Old Testament, and 104 times in the New Testament. That is the exact word “sin”. It does not include, sins, sinning, sinner, etc.

To get a clearer meaning of the word as it was intended, I looked in both Strong’s Exhaustive and Young’s Analytical Concordances. There are several different words, with slightly different meanings, translated as “sin”. Sometimes, a word may be translated as “sin” in one place, and something similar in another. For an explanation of how the concordances work, as well as better pictures, see this post about the word “glory”.

I dropped my camera a few weeks ago. It landed lens down, with the lens open, and has been unpredictable ever since. When I turn it on, it may work or it may not, especially if I need to adjust the focus. After several tries, I was able to get this shot. Then the camera shut itself off again, so this is what we have. I didn’t realize until I uploaded it that I didn’t get the whole entry.

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Page 966, second column, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

This picture is from Strong’s. You can see the heading for the word “sin”. Then there is a subheading that says “1. A Transgression”. That means this is the first definition for the word. So in all the following uses of the word “sin”, the general meaning is “transgression”. The other two definitions refer to a place (like the Desert of Sin), and don’t apply here. Under the “Transgression” subheading, each entry has a number that corresponds to the actual Hebrew word used.

The first entry is the first use of the word “sin” in the Bible. It is Genesis 4:7.

Here it is in the King James, since that is what both concordances use.

If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

The same verse in the NIV.

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

The number listed at the end of the entry (which you cannot see in the picture), is 2403. It refers to the listing in Hebrew and Chaldee dictionary at the back of the concordance. This word is chattath (English spelling of course). It means “sin”. Ok, I was hoping for a little more than that. I looked up the same word in Young’s, and got the same meaning. Young’s however will also show you how the same word was translated different ways, and how many times that way was used.

For example, for chattath:
punishment 2 (the word chattath is translated as punishment two times)
punishment of sin 1
purification from sin 2
purifying 1
sin 169
sin offering 116
sinner 1

Not terribly helpful in this case, but you can see chattath is translated as “sin” 169 times.

Going back to Strong’s, under the dictionary entry for 2304, it said the root word was 2398. I remembered that number was also listed under the “transgression” subheading in the front of the book. As a matter of fact, of the 11 Hebrew words listed under the “transgression” subheading, six of them refer back to 2398. The word is chata, and it means “to sin, to err, to miss the mark.” Now, we’re getting somewhere.

Young’s listing for chata says:
be in fault 1
bear blame 2
commit (sin) 5
do sin 2
have done harm 1
offend 4
sin 165
trespass 1

Again the most frequent translation is “sin”.

A scripture reference for chata is Genesis 42:22.

Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.

Other Hebrew/Chaldee words translated “sin” mean
guilt
error
fault
iniquity
offense
trespass
transgression

The picture is getting clearer, isn’t it?

Moving to the New Testament, the number of Greek words translated as “sin” is significantly less. There are four. They mean:
offense
transgression
error
miss the mark and not share in the prize.

The last word in the Greek  is “hamartano”

Young’s listing says:
offend 1
sin 39
trespass 3

A scripture reference for hamartano is Matthew 18:21.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

No matter which word was used, it is plain to see that sin is a bad thing.

Now that we know what the word means, we can find out how it applies to us.

We’ll do that next week.

On a lighter note, I left the concordances on the dining room table while I was typing this post. I looked up from my laptop to see this, and the camera cooperated for a minute. They are so helpful!

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Adora and Bookworm saving my spots in the concordances.  Yes, this is why she is named Bookworm.

Connie