God of Spilt Milk

God and Milk

Have you ever taken the time to observe the intricate design in a puddle of spilt milk? Do you realize, if you were to spill another glass, it would never have the same pattern? milk

There is a difference between not crying over spilt milk and embracing it as an act of beauty from a sovereign Creator.

God wants us to embrace the beauty of His creation and see Him in everything around us. This is not the same thing as pantheism (that the universe is god), but a command of God to see His creativity and beauty in the mirror of creation. Creation reflects God’s awesomeness. When Job doubts the care and love of God, how does God respond? God responds by showing Job His power through the intricate details of His creation.

How do you look at the world? Do you have the eyes of a child that sparkle with a sense of wonder? Have you lost the sense of amazement at the “simple works” of God? My 11 month old baby girl, is fascinated by lint on the floor. She takes her little hands and examines it with her tiny fingers totally enraptured by floor lint, while her parents throw it in the trash without a second thought.

We so easily take the amazing works of God and totally disregard them. Just look at how we look at snow? Snow is often viewed as an impediment to our goals or a hindrance, but truthfully it is the intricate, harmonious working of God’s hand. Take note when you pass a snow drift or see the salt stains on your car, because they will never again be the same.

God is constantly giving us a once in a lifetime display of His beauty.

Every moment of the day, God has given us wonders to observe that will never be replicated. From thewater-219733__180 pattern of maple leafs on the tree, to the swirling vortex of your sink or toilet, all are one of a kind viewings designed to show His glory.

Have you given thanks for the ordered randomness of his beauty? Paul touches on this topic in 1Thessalonians 5:18, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Have you given thanks for the intricate details of spilt milk, Kool-Aid stains, or a messy house?

Every action in the universe is designed to show the image and characteristics of Christ. Imagine if we had an angel’s view of the universe, and did not have the necessity of cleaning up the spilt milk, or shoveling the snow drift, or taking out the trash, would we see the splendor of the mundane?

According to Colossians 1:16, everything was created by God to show his glory. That means that the spilt milk has unlimited beauty. Everythingcoffee-691464__180 in creation praises God’s name. From the mighty super nova to the smallest atomic particle, or swirl in your latte, all creation heralds God’s fame.

Are we watching? Are we awake to the glory of God seen in the differing billows of smoke from an exhaust pipe? Do we see the handiwork of God in the cracks along the sidewalk, or the differing laugh lines in people we meet?

God’s glory is all around us in the extreme and the mundane. Thank you, Lord, for making a universe with such intense diversity.

When Stones Really Do Talk

Could a Pebble control your life?

In Luke 19:40 when the people are praising Jesus, the Pharisees deride him, and Jesus answers that if the people were silent, the stones themselves would testify of His greatness.  As we continue the series on the simple proclaiming God’s greatness, there is an Old Testament passage where a pebble overthrows the edict of an emperor.

Imagine if you were a Jew in 5th century Persia, on your way to worship you pass by the market and hear the proclamation, “On the 13th day of the 12th month Adar, anyone of Jewish descent is to be destroyed, including women and children, and whoever destroys any Jewish inhabitant, can have their goods, homes, businesses, and livestock for their own. – Signed Haman by order of his Lord Sovereign Ahasuerus the King.”

Would you feel much like worshiping? It is very easy as a believer to watch as similar declarations that attack the moral fiber of our nation are made on a continual basis. It is no surprise that this world is not a friend of righteousness and in fact many in the name of love have vehemently persecuted and sought to destroy those who stand by the truths of Scripture.

As we continue the series on the greatness of God shown through the small things, I was struck by a phrase in Esther 3:7, “They cast Pur, that is, the lot….” What is taking place in this passage?

The Empire’s second in command Haman in a revengeful act planned to eliminate the entire Jewish race, fortunebut his superstitious nature would not allow him to do it without the blessing from the pagan soothsayers. After the lot is cast, Haman is told that the best time to have the blessing of the gods is on the thirteenth of the last month of the year. Haman gets the blessing and edict of the king, and begins to wait nearly 11 months to destroy the Jews. And this is a very good thing.

How is that a good thing? At the outset, God’s chosen people would be destroyed by an irrevocable edict sealed-1240922from the king, but the Persian king’s edict is predicated by an even greater King’s edict. The Persian King Ahasuerus signed his edict with his signet ring, and commanded heralds to be sent throughout every province of his kingdom, the Heavenly king proclaimed His will with a little more subtlety, but with even more certainty.

Let’s take a quick look at the practice of the casting of the Pur. The word Pur is not Jewish, both times when the word is mentioned it is then explained as the Hebrew goral which refers to a rough object or pebble (Strong’s). Before the Jews even knew they were in trouble, Haman went to consult a bunch of rocks. The passage does not state the particulars, but it was common in ancient times especially amongst fortune tellers, to have a bag of different colored or shaped pebbles that when aligned or chosen could be interpreted by the priests.

“The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.” (Proverbs 16:33)

Even amidst the horrendous decree, God is in control before the decree hits the Persian courtroom floor. Haman who refused to be ruled by God and set himself up as the ultimate authority in his life is still being controlled by God. Haman is living out the oft forgotten principle that, “It’s kinda hard to outrun Omnipotence.”

If we were to step back from the immediate context and work through a few details, we can see the unwavering hand of God. Why wait 11 months to kill the Jews, because the red pebble says so. Where did pebbles-1388488the red pebble come from, Shanbenezzer picked it up by the river. Why did the river deposit the rock for Shanbenezzer, because of the late spring flood. Why the late spring flood, because of the barometric pressure in the western mountains. Why the western mountains, because that is the way God sculpted the world. Why the topography of the earth….Because God knew Shanbenezzer needed to find the red pebble for Haman, because He loves His people. God was thinking about Esther and His people for a long time. And God is thinking about whatever red pebble seemingly dictates your life and mine.

In fact, God is a master at redeeming horrendous circumstances and trials in order to show Himself strong. The Jews had nearly 3 months to seek God’s face, repent, and pray before God moved to officially change the Persian king’s edict (Esther 8:9). But the fact remains that God is big enough to use a vengeful man, pagan priests, and a little pebble, to ensure that His power is known, because after all, God’s edict never changed.

Why Ravens

What Could God Want with These Scavengers?

Have you ever wondered why God puts certain details in the Bible? God doesn’t waste ink. God’s Word has incredible riches sometimes laying out in the open, and then there are times when He has us dig a little. Today I want to ask you to roll up your sleeves and dig a little with me as we answer the question, “Why Ravens?”

In I Kings 17:1-6, Elijah has his debut and is introduced as a prophet of God. God commands the new prophet to go and deliver a message to the wicked king Ahab who has chosen to reject the God of the Bible and institute Baal worship. After Elijah tells the king that there will be a drought and Jehovah God is in control of the rain, he is told to run and hide. (Good idea after telling a king that he is a wicked pagan, and that his economy is going to tank.) Then we see in verse 4 that God in his faithfulness is going to provide for all of Elijah’s needs and that God will send his servants to feed Elijah in the wilderness.

Elijah trusted God. He trusted when it made sense vs. 2-3. He trusted God when it didn’t make sense vs. 4.  raven-1312094Imagine the prophet of God, “What’s the Word?”  “Talk to the king, run hide.” “So like you got robin Hood hiding out in Jordan forest? How am I going to eat?” “I am going to have my servants bring you the food.” “Wow, room service. I can do this prophesying thing.” I will send Ravens.” “What they are unclean, I can’t eat that.” “You won’t have to, they are the chiefs.” “What?” “Go.”

After God tells Elijah His plan, he obeys and Elijah gets to see God fulfill His promises (6). The Word of the Lord came to pass (6). The moment God spoke the words into existence it happened. God never forgets His promise. As extraordinary as this plan sounds, God promised it in verse 4, and we see it coming to pass in verse 6 and 7. There was no rain, and there were always birds. They came twice a day. Gbread-1329360od ensured that for hundreds and hundreds of flights, his servant was fed. God promised, and delivered.

Because of Elijah’s trust, God provides a lesson. First of all, God provided protection. The first specific mention of Ravens is in Genesis 8:7, “And he (Noah) sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.” God protected the Raven species through impossible odds. Think of it. There are only two ravens alive on the ark, one bird leaves without coming back. Assuming there was not a nest of baby crows in the rafters, somehow the raven mate finds the other raven after the most catastrophic disaster in history, build a nest, and survive long enough to have baby ravens in order to provide for God’s prophet close to 2,000 years in the future. God protected His servants in order to provide for His prophet. (We can all be thankful that God didn’t choose the Dodo bird as his messengers.)

God also protected through uncommon means. Leviticus 11:13-15 states that ravens were unclean animals and could not be eaten by the Jewish people. Sometimes God’s laws don’t seem to make sense, but He has a plan. Just work with me here. If the Raven could be eaten what do you suppose would have happened during a famine? They would have eaten God’s messengers. I am sure some of the Israelites disobeyed God and were eating ravens, but for hundreds of years the Israeli “DNR” had posted no hunting signs, in order to keep Elijah fed. Even with God’s amazing provision, Elijah learned that he had to trust God daily.

God delights in putting his people in positions that do not make sense, so that they will trust Him more.

     In this very short story, God showed that He was in control. A seemingly insignificant prophet stands up and obeys God. Who knows how many child sacrifices were stopped or souls are in heaven because of that one act of obedience. The ravens obeyed and allowed for God to be glorified and provided for the next phase of Elijah’s spectacular ministry.

If we stopped there, we would be able to gather many nuggets of truth and be comforted that a faithful God provided for faithful servants.  Even though that is true, if we dig a little deeper, the immensity of God’s power resounds through the story like a thunderbolt.

Why a drought? Why didn’t God answer quickly like He does in the next chapter with a ball of fire? Why ravens? God could certainly have used the 7,000 servants who had not bowed down to Baal for food and shelter. If we step back to I Kings 16:30-32, we would see that this story about the ravens is predicated by the official establishment of the Canaanite worship of Baal.330px-Baal_thunderbolt_Louvre_AO15775

In the pantheon of gods, Baal was the chief deity. His name actually means lord or master. Many ancient religions held to the idea that differing deities were in charge of various aspects of life. We see this idea in I Kings 20:23 when the Syrians attempt to conquer Israel in the plains because they believed Jehovah was only the god of the hills. Baal’s area of power centered on three specific areas. He was in charge of rain (he is often pictured with a thunderbolt), grain, and fertility especially the first born.(1)

So when God sends Elijah to make a proclamation of drought to the king, he is claiming ownership over Baal’s territory. This story is not simply about the faithfulness of a beginning prophet, or the fate of a nation. This is a territorial battle of the gods, because Jehovah struck directly at the center of Baal worship. If it rained, Baal was God, if it didn’t Jehovah deserved worship. Even in God’s judgment He is merciful. He gave the nation of Israel 3 ½ years to observe that He ruleth in the affairs of men.

Because the rains didn’t come, the grain failed. Once again God is “allowing” Baal to answer on enkihis home turf. Every morning as the men of Israel woke up from hunger pains and watched the dust blow across the plains, they had to admit that Jehovah had defeated Baal. To make the story even more intriguing, Canaanite worship revered ravens as the messengers of the gods.

After the brook dried up, Elijah then is commanded to go to Phoenicia the center of Baal worship. (2) While there he finds a starving widow, provides an endless amount of grain for her, and then through the power of God, raises a boy to life. All in Baal’s home court. It’s as if God stood up in the heavens stuffed Baal and proclaimed, “Not in my house!”

How have you seen God working in miraculous ways?  I would love to read about the way God has used “ravens” in your life.

_______

1). As Baal was worshiped and adopted by many pagan religions his name, and responsibilities did vary, but the three major areas were that of rain, grain, and life

2). F.C. Fensham, “A Few Observations on the Polarization between Yahweh and Baal in I Kings 17—19,” Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 92:2 (1980):234

3).  Also see Constable’s electronic notes on I Kings 17 soniclight.org