12. Hebrew Worship: The God Who Kills


I knew things were not going well for me at that job and I was a little concerned, but I was quite shocked when I was abruptly fired.  I had not been there very long and had no idea how tolerant or intolerant my boss was of my growth curve.  Apparently his fuse was shorter than my ignorance and incompetence.

Kids tend to be much smarter than I was.  They can usually psyche out their parents and know whether “Johnny, come here” means “Move fast” or “Wait for two more commands.”

Figuring out God is quite another matter.  First of all, He tends to have a very long fuse.  After listing more than 600 rules for the Hebrews, He cut to the core of the matter and said, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”  Exodus 34:6  NIV

But when He comes to the end of His mercy, it is not pretty.

He put up with the Amorite iniquity in Canaan for well over 400 years, but when He was done, He required them to be eradicated.  We don’t know how long He put up with sodomy in Canaan, but when He was done, He was quite done.  He put up with Judah’s iniquity for centuries, but when He was done, they went to Babylon, no matter what the false prophecies were.  And He will put up with mankind as a whole, but when the Tribulation is scheduled, it will happen.

Against this backdrop, we have the challenging story of Moses.  God called him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt, then while he and his family were at a motel on the way there, in obedience to the command of the Lord, God met him and attempted to kill him (Exodus 4).

At issue was Moses’ failure to circumcise his two sons.  The circumstances seem to suggest that he had failed to do it when they were born because his non-Hebrew wife didn’t care to see her babies bloodied up for the sake of some other religion’s preferences.

When God was so savage toward Moses, Zipporah had to do it on the spot in order to save Moses’ life, and she was furious over it.  In fact, it seems to have broken their marriage irretrievably.  She took the boys and went home while he went on to Egypt.

He connected with them again after the Exodus, but shortly thereafter, he picked up a second wife, which suggests that the reconnection with his first wife didn’t work very well.

Still . . . kill Moses because he failed to circumcise his sons?  Maybe a bit harsh, God?

I have a theory.  Or two.

On the surface, one explanation could be that God was dealing with the fear of man.  For Moses to be the leader God needed, he could not be looking over his shoulder wondering what anyone else was going to say.  In the matter of a few short days, the elders of Israel would celebrate him as a savior and then reject him as an inept mess-maker.

In the face of national rejection, Moses needed to be able to stay on task and look only at God.

So, God may have set this situation up to show Moses how intensely God feels about people who defer to other people when God has given a clear command.  This played out with his wife, since that is one of the weakest spots for men.   God made it clear that the biggest danger his future kings were going to face was pressure from their wives.  God feared that facet of the culture – the wives of the kings – more than all of the outside conflict.

It is easy to apply that lesson to all of us.  Fear of man has most likely cost just about all of the readers of this blog some point of authority somewhere along the way.  Now, as then, fear of man does little to enhance the effectiveness of a Noble Subject of the Great King.

Let’s broaden the lesson though.  My other theory is that every single one of us has a specific lesson we need to learn deeply, early on in our lives, before our whole life story is in play.  He takes each one of us to the wall in an emotionally ripping situation to position us for success later on.

The situation in question is usually extremely exaggerated.  I can’t find any other place in Scripture where God came personally and threatened to kill a man if his wife did not circumcise his kids on the spot.  In fact, quite the opposite.  God allowed an entire generation to spurn the issue until Gilgal.

But, for the issue that will be THE issue in our life, God puts us in a savagely yanking situation early on to anchor some truth.

For me, it is the issue of “Let history be your judge.”  Early on there was that infamous kangaroo court where church leadership decided I was persona non grata because I believed Christians could have a demon, and I believed that I could actually kick the (non-existent) demon out of them.

At the time, I felt deeply betrayed by God because He did not come through and vindicate me in any of the ways I thought He could, or should, and He let me experience that profound injustice.

Once I was spurned by that group, God promptly took me to a highly demonized place and had me begin doing more deliverance in more extreme ways than anything I had ever done before.  He gave me good success.  I learned a lot.  And still I pondered the “abandonment” back in the day.  It was clear God believed in me and in my theology, but He didn’t defend me when I needed it.

Today, that theological issue is laughable.  While the specific church in question still holds that view, Christendom as a whole has shifted massively toward understanding the need for deliverance.  And not only has Christendom pivoted on the issue, but I am flooded with requests (which I don’t take) for ministry for deliverance from demons.  My vindication has been quite a bit more extravagant than is comfortable for me.

But it took about ten years to come.

Today the whole story makes sense to me.  That was hardly the last time God has called me to announce a truth from Scripture and to be widely rejected for it, then to become the official standard carrier for that concept sometime later.  Cycles of medium term rejection are pretty much de rigueur for me.  The only question is who I offended with which issue this week.

But having gone through the fire back then and having established the fact that God confirms His presence with me through power, not popularity, none of the subsequent rejections, which have usually been much more intense, have caused me the pain of that first one.

In retrospect, the kangaroo court was really stupid.  The people, the logic, the accusation, the theology, the pettiness – simply ridiculous for grown up people to act that way in the name of God.

But God allowed that first fire early on in order to anchor me in walking forward, regardless of whether anyone approves or not.  “Let history be your judge.”

So today we will worship the God who deliberately hurts you strategically in a dry run, before you hurt yourself permanently in a must-win battle in life.

12. Hebrew Worship: The God Who Kills

Copyright September 2015 by Arthur Burk

From the Hub

 

 

 

11. Hebrew Worship: The God of the Hidden Agenda


On the surface, it looks like a plain old fashioned legitimacy crutch and you know how I LOATH legitimacy crutches, no matter how pretty or now temporary they are.

Moses wasn’t man enough to do the job he was designed before the foundation of the world to do.   “No guts” in the vernacular.  “No faith” if you want to be pious about it.

So, God sent Aaron to be Moses’ crutch, to speak for him, to help him feel more confident when he tiptoed into Pharaoh’s palace and presented an outrageous request from an unknown God.

That is true.  He was a crutch for a little while until Moses grew into the job.  By the fourth plague, Moses was becoming confident.  By the seventh one he was on his own and Aaron was just along for the ride.

I think there is another story here though.  God knew that Aaron was destined to be High Priest some time in the future.  Moses probably had no idea the office would ever exist, since it never had for the Hebrews so far.  But God knows about a lot of things that have never existed before and He plans meticulously in preparation for those things without human understanding or permission.

So my hunch is God’s strategy was quite the opposite of what it appears.  Instead of Aaron helping Moses’ out with his insecure soul, Moses was unwittingly helping Aaron out with his underdeveloped spirit.  In this whole experience of meeting with Pharaoh repeatedly, doing miracles and watching the effect of the plagues on Egypt, Aaron was getting an education about the God he would one day represent before the nation.

Groomed for a job he did not know existed.  That is so like God.

Aaron was not the first and he was not the last.  I look back on my life and ponder the strange places God has stuck me in order to train me for something that would come 20 years later.  He was teaching me about fractals long before I knew what they were.  He was training me for land work long before I knew there was such a thing as spiritual dynamics for land.  He developed my spiritual discernment back when I didn’t even think there were demons.

On the job training is one of God’s specialties.  Let’s celebrate all the jobs He trained for, before the jobs existed on earth.

11. Hebrew Worship:  The God of the Hidden Agenda

Copyright September 2015 by Arthur Burk

From the Hub

 

40. Speed Prayer: Legitimization


We have recently been focusing on learning how to worship in the face of the Egyptian Curse, but something new has emerged on the warfare side of the table that merits adding another warfare prayer to our original series.

I have been tracking with a man who has an interesting dynamic in his economic life.  He has the usual – job, home, car and some toys.  He is not facing financial hardship nor is he at risk of that.  However, there is a glass ceiling over his income.

He has a day job, and he also moonlights occasionally.  Whenever he makes some extra money moonlighting, there is some glitch at work that cuts into that stream of income.  He doesn’t lose money overall, it just nets out.  If he doesn’t moonlight, the income at work is steady.

We looked at this for quite some time, trying to figure out what the spiritual dynamic is.  Clearly, in the spiritual (demonic) realm, it was “legal” for him to have the lifestyle he does.  There was none of the familiar devouring most people are accustomed to.  It was just an issue of income limits.  If he went over a particular level of income, it would be promptly devoured before it got to him.  There were astounding ways it happened.

Eventually we found what we think is the problem.  His extended family has come to an agreement that it is not “right” for him to prosper – only survive.

You see, he grew up in a proper middle class Christian family, but his calling led him to differentiate from them in his faith and his practice (in other words, he became a Noble Subject in Sapphire!).  That led to a very strong negative reaction from his extended family.

The issue is legitimacy.  If “Fred” should prosper financially, then it would be tantamount to God blessing him because his theology is right, and they cannot accept that this could be.  If his theology is right, then theirs must be wrong, and they are militant about not losing their legitimacy.

So we have the power of agreement among his extended family that he should live respectably, but absolutely must not rise above the basic lifestyle lest anyone attribute his thriving to the God he serves.

It seems to me that this is a tight parallel to the God of the Hebrews vs. the gods of the Egyptians.   It wasn’t really about economic power although that was the visible flash point.  God made it very clear from the beginning that it was about who was legitimate:  Him or their gods.

And economic status became the playing field for demonstrating the pleasure of God upon one people group or the other.

With this background, Fred began to war against the demons who were maintaining the glass ceiling.  He asked God to destroy the agreements that were empowering the demonic, to destroy the devouring device and to restore to him the income devoured in the past as well as the income due to him from his good work in the future.

AND the day he did that, his base income got devoured in the most unlikely way!

Looks to me as though he is on target.  The first attempt to break free from Pharaoh resulted in a mighty step backwards for the Hebrews.  And Pharaoh’s decision was based on his absolute refusal to legitimize the God of the Hebrews.

So God had to legitimize Himself, which He did with gusto.

I am fully aware of the dangers of too much money.  I can tell you a multitude of stories of greed and disgusting consumerism.  However, having said that, I am not afraid of money either.  I don’t think that removing the glass ceiling from Fred’s income is going to put him at risk of becoming carnal.

And I think there are a goodly number of “Freds” in the Sapphire tribe who can be trusted with more income, who are Noble Subjects who would use more income for advancing the Kingdom and who would not waste it all on pointless consumption.

Hence today’s prayer.

Fred’s family is a few dozen people.  Their agreement in the name of God has built a stronghold the enemy is using.  Our tribe is tens of thousands, of which hundreds are tracking with this blog.  In the prayer that follows, I will carefully acknowledge that there are some people who God knows should not have extra assets at this moment.  I have no problem with God’s wisdom in that regard.  He sees the big picture, and I don’t feel all Christians are supposed to be wealthy all the time.

However, having made that one nuanced exception, I am absolutely opposed to the devil or any of his minions deciding for us that we cannot be trusted with finances for any reason, and doubly opposed to a demon seeking to delegitimize our God through what it does to us.

Let’s war vigorously for all the Freds out there who are blocked economically, or socially or in health matters because some group of people violently objects to God legitimizing them.

God has the right to legitimize anyone He wants, any time He wants, and He has done so many times.  Think of how He legitimized Moses, David, Peter and sundry others who were vigorously delegitimized by their cultures.

AND God quite overtly legitimized His relationship with Job through abundant resources.  Hence, if He wants to do it for Fred, that is His prerogative, and the devil will need to stand down or get run over.

40. Speed Prayer: Legitimization

Copyright September 2015 by Arthur Burk

From the Hub, with an attitude

 

10. Hebrew Worship: The God Who Rescues Broken World Changers


Moses at the burning bush is an archetype to me of the people I am drawn to.

He was designed and destined for greatness, made a wrong turn and became broken.  Through significant effort he reinvented his life and became a socially acceptable unit in the culture.  He was functional, productive, loved and stable.  Forty years of hard work had positioned him in a non-remarkable context that was non-toxic, organic and sustainable with a modest amount of creature comforts accessible.

And when his destiny arose from the dead and confronted him, it asked him to lay down his functional life and embrace vast risk with unspeakable ambiguity in pursuit of fulfillment, at the expense of his carefully constructed consumer lifestyle, with a standard safety net.

And he choked.

My life is full of people like Moses.

I just came back from South Africa where I had any number of conversations where I confronted people with their destiny and was rewarded with a “Yes, but . . .”

I watched the tears spring to their eyes as their spirit felt vast confirmation of their calling.  And I watched their soul valiantly struggle for control, seeking to put out the nascent fires of hope and vision.

The soul won most of those arguments.  For some, it was sleight of hand.  The soul agreed that this was design and destiny, but pursuit thereof would have to be put off for a while — and undefined “while.”

For others, it was guilt manipulation.  After all, they had a moral obligation to family, ministry leaders and other people around them, and it certainly would not be possible to pursue their own destiny while fulfilling their responsibilities to others.  Hence the need to graciously sacrifice one’s self for the good of others.

And for a few, the soul simply defiantly said it was not going to sacrifice decades of compensation to pursue the wild idea again.  Been there, done that, checked it off the list, never looking back.

South Africa is no different than any other place I go.  Moses is everywhere these days.  Perhaps there were a few more there than usual since it was a conference for visionaries, but broadly, almost every trip I take, I come back sore of heart for the Moses’ I met and challenged and had to walk away from.

Thus, I have vast awe for the skill God displayed as He met Moses and started the job of restoring him, in spite of his ornery soul.

There is a book here for someone to write some day, laying out for us the strategies God used to restore Moses.

God met him in the context of the supernatural.  God answered several of his concerns with philosophical answers and with hard data.  When Moses dug in his heels, opting for comfort over calling, God raised the volume and demanded obedience since Moses would not offer it voluntarily.

Then came all of the drama of the succeeding events.  It wasn’t just about Pharaoh.  It was a carefully orchestrated CrossFit Gym designed to heal his broken soul at the same time as God was building it and toughening him up.

God knew when to be kind and patient and when to be intense.  God knew that the healing would take place incrementally during the journey, not suddenly in the healing room.  Moses was far from a model student.  God was a master healer.

Such a masterpiece of wisdom!

Join me today in worshipping the God who is bigger than our junk.

10. Hebrew Worship: The God Who Rescues Broken World Changers

Copyright September 2015 by Arthur Burk

From the Hub, once again, joyously

9. Hebrew Worship: The God of the Crux of the Matter


“Go talk to Pharaoh,” God said to Moses.

Simple words.  Mind boggling concept.

Put yourself in that situation.

God says to you, “Hey, you!  Noble Subject of mine, go talk to the head of ISIS and let him know I said to stop it right now.”

Uh, right!

This is the difference between us and God.  We look at an opponent and typically identify a battle we can win.  God looks at an opponent and identifies the core issue that needs to be dealt with.  He does not evaluate whether it is a winnable battle because they all are.

From the Hebrews’ later perspective, it may well have seemed that God bit off more than He could chew when He tackled Pharaoh.  Time after time, God won a battle but showed no signs of winning the war.  Humans with a limited perspective did not grasp that God wasn’t just focusing on getting the Hebrews out of Egypt – He was hammering the credibility of the Egyptian “gods.”  The long drawn out battle was deliberate and beneficial.

Throughout history, God has allowed the enemy a very long leash, but when the time comes for the King to move, there is nothing even remotely like effective resistance from the devil.

Think through these pictures.

-The devil setting up a defensive mechanism to divert or at least minimize the damage to Sodom, Gomorrah and the other three communities.

Uh, no.

There was not even a shred of a chance of the devil saving one person or building from the wrath of The Almighty.

-Try this.  Jericho is quite important to the devil, so he sets up a strong defense to save one section of the wall from collapse and manages to keep his key worshipers alive by hiding them in some building where they escape notice.

Uh, no.  Not even a whisper of a chance to succeed.

-Let’s take a simple one.  Mount Carmel.  The devil calmly arranges for some dry lightening on that day to set afire the altar to Baal.  Clean, simple, highly effective in keeping the whole nation serving him.

Uh, no.  The devil could not have lit a safety match that day with four Eagle Scouts to help him.  He was utterly powerless in the face of God’s man of the hour.

-Then we move to comedy hour.  The Christ is dead and in a tomb.  The devil gets a government official to put a wax seal on the stone, and has four top notch soldiers guarding the rock so that the God who created all the galaxies with a simple sentence would be utterly stymied in resurrecting Him!

Really, truly.

With millennia to prepare, that is the very best the devil could do.  Wax and four soldiers to stop God.

You know, the Simpson’s screen writer never stooped to a story line that patently absurd.  God intimidated by a Roman official’s wax seal.  If God violated the law and broke the seal, the Roman governor might be really, really mad at God and haul Him into court or something scary like that.

So there you have the difference of perspective.  Moses had a clear view of the earthly powers of Pharaoh.  Seeing everything that God allowed Pharaoh to do caused Moses to be intimidated.

God was scrolling through the videos of history not yet lived, seeing every time the devil utterly failed to save a single scrap of anything from the wrath of God, so He is utterly unimpressed with Pharaoh’s power and intransigence.

Today we will worship the God of the Crux of the Matter.  He doesn’t focus on getting the bare minimum job done with the least amount of opposition.  He looks as the various obstacles in the way, identifies the most formidable one and destroys it – or him.

Simple.

9. Hebrew Worship: The God of the Crux of the Matter

Copyright September 2015 by Arthur Burk

From Pretoria, Gauteng

 

 

8. Hebrew Worship: The God of Divine Design


Try to get into Moses’ place as he is processing this encounter.

First was an oddity of the bush that does not burn up.  The low energy curiosity about the bush caused him to move toward it.  Then God spoke to Him audibly and shocked him.  (Factor in a major adrenaline rush).

While Moses was trying to process the experience of being in the presence of THE Almighty, God framed the encounter around His relationship with the whole Hebrew tribe.

Now this would have been a jolt.  In many ways, Moses had emotionally left the Hebrew tribe.  He was living under the auspices of a Midianite priest and had married into his family, integrating with his culture and economy.  The fact that he had not circumcised his sons indicated that he was now more Midianite in mindset than Hebrew.

Suddenly with no ramp up, God informed him that the last 40 years of Moses’ Midianite assimilation were essentially not relevant to heaven’s perspective of him.  In God’s eyes, Moses was a Hebrew, intimately connected to the pain of the Hebrews which he had never experienced directly, he was woven into the prayers of the Hebrews which he had not been praying for the last 40 years and he would be a partial beneficiary of the attention of God toward the Hebrews.

It took me about 45 seconds to read God’s comments to Moses.  The Hebrew language is much more economical than English, so it could have been as little as 30 seconds in the original encounter.

In 30 seconds, Moses had intellectual and emotional whiplash as God engaged him in an unprecedented manner and unambiguously reframed one half of Moses’ life.

While He was quite destabilized by that barrage, God kicked it up a notch.

“You are my solution to that problem.”

Just like that.

Actually, no.

It wasn’t really so abrupt.  Not in reality.  In Moses’ mind, maybe, but not in God’s reality.

You see, God had designed Moses before the foundation of the world for this task.  God inserted him into time and space at the right time in history.  God supervised his live birth, watched over his early days, arranged for him to be effectively transferred to the Egyptian palace for the superlative education that would be needed to write the Pentateuch.

God awakened the passion in him to champion his people and gave him an opportunity to do so in the brickyard.

While God did not condone the murder, He was not derailed by the incident.  Moses was transferred by God’s intent to the region around Mount Sinai so he could continue his education.  Here the coursework was about thriving in the desert.  It was a massive topic so God allocated 40 years to get the job done.

In the mind of God, this was simply the next step in a carefully planned and precisely executed project dating back to before creation.

The fact that this was a surprise and a jolt to Moses is simply an expression of Moses’ being out of touch with reality.  He had heavily weighted the wrong pieces of data.  He well knew about his birth and all the related drama.  He knew his heart’s desire.  However, he devalued that data and put maximum weight on his own wrong choices, not on God’s investment in him.  Consequently, when Moses crunched the numbers, he decided he was washed up.

When God weighted the same data correctly and crunched the numbers, Moses was THE MAN, and it was time to schedule some action.

This is the relentless battle between God and man.  We so often focus primarily on our journey as an expression of our worth or our fit for a particular task.  By contrast, God focuses on original design.  He factors in our journey, and at times our journey does disqualify us from walking in our design.  But foundationally, God starts the discussion with our design and aches to see us fulfill the calling for which we were designed.

8. Hebrew Worship: The God of Divine Design

Copyright September 2015 by Arthur Burk

From Pretoria, while attending the social entrepreneur’s conference

 

7. Hebrew Worship: The God of War


So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey— the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  Exodus 3:8  NIV

The Latinos have a saying.  “Fuimos de Guatemala a Guate Peor.”  The American equivalent is “We went from the frying pan into the fire.”

God calmly segues from milk and honey to swords and spears as though it is the most logical pairing of ideas since peaches and cream.  While the Hebrews initially dealt with the thought of war through the classic spirit-of-slavery technique of denial, eventually they were face to face with the reality and decided the fire was less palatable than the frying pan, so they tried to jump back in.

The Hebrews were quite convinced that this war was beyond their capabilities.  After all, they were farmers who got drafted to be brick makers.  War was not in their DNA.  They wanted to do a work around and not have to deal with such a scary subject.

God was quite sure that He was the God of War.  Having whupped the devil when there was a rebellion in heaven, He had no fear at all of any trivial human ruckuses.  He was quite sure that if the Hebrews would show up for the battle, He could do all the heavy lifting for them and let them enjoy the fruits of His nature.

That difference of opinion has persisted down through the years.  So many people in SLG are afraid of doing personal ministry for themselves or others because they have failed a few times in the past.  So they look for a champion, a Joshua, to lead the charge.

However, God did not want Joshua to be their mini-god.  He wanted each tribe to learn to engage the Canaanites and all the other “-ites” through a process of repeated failure and progressive learning about war.  He was quite minimally concerned about victory.  He could have done that Himself.  He wanted His people to know Him as the God of War.  And there is no way for them to know that facet of the nature of God without going to war themselves and experiencing His presence and power.

Not much has changed today.  Each of the great generals of the faith have had to walk a long road of failure, partial success, greater power and then high dominion.  In the process, they have come to know their God as the God of War.  The invitation still stands for us to enter the fray and learn about this side of God.

And the decision of most is to do a workaround instead, finding a way to sort of live at peace with the enemy instead of overcoming him.

I invite you to join me in a prayer of repentance for declining to pay the price to learn about this facet of God which is certainly worth celebrating.

7. Hebrew Worship: The God of War

Copyright September 2015 by Arthur Burk

From Madiswil

 

6. Hebrew Worship: The God of Progress


So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey . . . Exodus 3:8  NIV

Let’s reword this in a couple of alternative ways.

-I have come down to kill Pharaoh and get them out of the brickyards so they can enjoy the dignity in Goshen they had when Joseph was Prime Minister and they were free.

Not bad at all.  They knew Egypt.  They knew the language and the culture and the economy.  They had houses already.  They remembered the stories of what it was like before things changed.  All told, a pretty fantastic upgrade.

Or how about this one.

-I have come down to rescue them from the bondage of Egypt and return them to Canaan where they came from.

Wow.  No one was really hoping for this.  Getting out of slavery was the primary focus.  Out of Egypt sounds remarkable, albeit a little bit scary.  Going back to a place where your forefathers did pretty good for themselves is on the outer edges of believability.

But that is not what God said.  He was not going to take them back to Canaan because they had some warm fuzzy history there.  God never mentioned their past history.  It had nothing to do at all with why He was taking them back there.  He was taking them to a highly supportive context where they could magnificently unpack their design.  

It is hard for those who are in survival mode to envision thriving.  Getting out of bondage is a dream almost beyond reach.  The old dreams of being able to creatively express the best of the treasures within you died long ago in the daily drudgery of the brickyard.

Correction!

They died for you, but not for the Creator who designed you before the foundation of the world to be an exquisitely expressive person, and He has never forgotten the environment needed for you to express your design.

So even though God was taking them back to the place their forefathers came from, it was incidental to the story line, not central.  Even though God tightly controlled their exit from Egypt, rigidly forced forms of worship upon them and micromanaged their entry into Canaan, He wanted them to know Him first as the God of their design.  He was taking them where they could convert the treasures He had given them into an expression of their design.

Today’s warfare blessing is for all those who have lost their dreams in the brickyard, but who have a God who is still dreaming of their fulfillment.

6. Hebrew Worship:  The God of Progress

Copyright September 2015 by Arthur Burk

Written at 2:15 a.m. when sleep is far