The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away- BIG time!

The parashot we are in at this time of the year is the story of the plagues against Egypt in Exodus.

For those who don’t know, the Torah is sectioned off, so to speak, into portions to be read at each Shabbat service. These portions are called Parashot (parsha, or parashah for each one) and when following this annual cycle every Jew across the world is reading the same exact part of the Word of God, every week.

Currently we are in the midst of the plagues that God sent against Egypt, designed to weaken the Pharaoh, call down judgement on the Egyptians and free the Israelites from bondage. These plagues first destroyed the land, then the cattle, the crops, the people and even the very heritage of Pharaoh, when his first born son is killed. Finally, the power and might of Egypt, it’s army, is drowned in the Red Sea.

When I read this I think of Genesis 12:3, where God promises Abraham that He will bless those who bless him, and curse those that curse him.

Come, Sherman, to the Way-Back machine, and let’s go back some 400 years, to Genesis 41. Here we read how Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, and Pharaoh immediately blessed Joseph. He raised him to a level of nearly autonomous power, and when Joseph brought his family into Egypt for protection from the famine, Pharaoh gave them the best of the land. This Pharaoh blessed the seed of Abraham, and through Joseph he became the richest man in the world. When we read this story we see that Pharaoh, who at that time was already the political and religious leader of the country, also came to own the country, the people and their goods. As they ran out of money to buy grain, Joseph had them exchange their cattle, the land and even their homes. The Pharaoh that blessed Joseph was totally blessed by God.

Back now to Moses and the current Pharaoh, the one who has cursed the seed of Abraham with bondage and cruelty. Let’s see what happens to him:

  • the Nile to blood kills his fish and the fishing economy
  • the cattle disease kills his cattle
  • the hail destroys his trees
  • the locusts destroy his crops
  • his political and religious authority is eroded (we read how the people take protection as Moses tells them, ignoring the Pharaoh’s example. His authority and position as a god is eroded as the God of the Hebrews shows His true sovereignty)
  • the death of the firstborn throughout the land destroys the people’s morale, and robs the Pharaoh of his legacy
  • the destruction of the army in the Red Sea not only robs Pharaoh of his military strength but leaves his entire country defenceless. I guess it was a good thing for them they had nothing left to take!

Everything God had given to the Pharaoh who blessed His people was taken away from the Pharaoh that cursed them; in fact, not only did God take away that which had been given, but what he had already (his political and religious authority) was taken away, too.  It’s just as Yeshua said in Matthew 25:29:

For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.

In our everyday life it seems sometimes that we are being cursed, that what we have is being taken from us, and many times I have heard people say that this is punishment from God. It may be, but I don’t think so; at least, not in most cases. People always want to blame God for everything, when we should remember that as we come closer to God, the enemy is more threatened and he will move more against us. The trials and tribulations we go through aren’t always because God is “after us.” The enemy likes to screw around with God’s people in order to fool them into thinking God has abandoned them.

Don’t fall for it and don’t worry about stupid things like clothes, jobs, money, etc. Yeah, yeah- in a modern world we need it, but recall how Job lost everything but it was returned to him, doubled! If it was God who sent tribulation upon you, if you repent and return to Him, He will return to you what was taken. He tells us that in Joel 2:25:

And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.

Also, we read in Matthew 6:25-34:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ? 28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

The Prophets talked continuously about the regathering of the people, and we are a blessed generation because we are seeing this prophecy fulfilled, today. The world is coming down around us, and in the midst of the dust and debris we see people making Aliya (literally, “going up”, returning to Israel) and many of the groups helping these people to make Aliya are Christian based! The “one man in God” that Shaul (Paul) talks about in Galatians 3:28 is actually happening! Right now! Today!

Look at the history of God’s people, with respect to those that have cursed them: the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Philistines, the Ninevites, the Assyrians, the Romans, the Spanish (yes, they were the world power from the 14th through 18th Centuries, but after the Inquisition they were destroyed as a world power, forever), and, of course, the Nazi’s. Even though we still have the Arab countries constantly try to destroy Israel, they have failed. Today as technology increases and our dependance on the oil fields lessens, the arab nations whose power and wealth is tied up solely in oil will fall. And each time they try to destroy Israel it goes this way:  they attack and we kick their butts!

As the Jewish people have said for millennia: “They tried to kill us; we killed them; let’s eat.” And we can say that because God is on our side, just as we are told in Psalm 118:6.

Salvation is a gift from God that we can never buy or earn, but blessings are things we can earn. And since they can be earned, they are not irrevocable. As Job said, God can give and take away. We can’t always (in fact, we probably never will) understand what God is doing or why, but we can trust that He always does what is best for us. So even when you find yourself in the midst of the fiery furnace, keep trusting, keep praying, keep growing in faith and continue to lovingly obey the Torah, and you will be saved.

God likes to bless His children, and we are all His children, so never, never, NEVER think that you are abandoned by God. You can abandon Him, and He may stay out of your way (which takes away all your protection from a fallen and cursed world) but God is always in the wings, rooting for you, and His hand is always held out waiting for you to reach for it.

If you think that God doesn’t care about you, you’re wrong.  You probably don’t care enough about Him, so do T’shuvah (turn from your sin) and reach out to Him. He’s waiting for you.

Keep on Truckin’, Baby!

I love living in Florida, one reason is that I can ride my bike all year long. I was taking a long ride yesterday, one that has some elevation (a causeway over the Banana River) so I can get a little more of a workout. As I was approaching the causeway there is a spot where I go down hill on a grassy area onto a parking lot. I have done this many times, and as I was zipping along at a brisk 15 MPH or so, I saw a tuft of grass in front of me. I figured I would have a little bump, but just as I got to the grass I saw that it was hiding one of those 8″ high cement bumpers.

Ooops- forgot about those being there.

Well, I pulled up hard on the handlebars and tried to jump it, and even though I got the front wheel over, the back didn’t make it and bumpity-bumpity-bump: I lost control to a large degree, but remarkably, even though the bike took a spill, I didn’t. I managed to walk right over the bike as it went down and maintained my balance.

Any landing you can walk away from is a good one, right?

I did get a nasty bump on one leg from the pedal and some scrapes on the other ankle, but for the most part I escaped unbroken and (mostly) undamaged. I picked up the bike, straightened the fenders and went back on my way.

So, nu? What’s this got to do with God? A lot.

We often read about how the gold must go through the fire to be refined, and Yeshua warns His Talmudim (disciples) that following Him will be like picking up one’s execution stake every day. We read about David’s trials while living as a bandit, in the caves and hills, trying to escape Shaul haMelech (King Saul), and we are preached to, over and over (like now) about having to run the good race and keep our eyes on the prize.

In other words, when you fall, get up. We all know that lesson, right? So what’s different with what happened to me?

What was different is that although I fell, and got back up, I didn’t get as hurt as I have in previous falls because having fallen many times I know what to do.  I knew what was coming. I was able to act so that my reaction allowed me to fall gracefully and maintain my balance. And, yes, after I fell I thanked God for the fact I wasn’t too damaged, then I got back on the bike and continued my journey.

We will all fall at some point on our walk with the Lord. In fact, we should be falling. I found this saying on the Internet, and it helps to make my point:

Ski instructors are taught that if their students aren’t falling at least once per run they are not learning new, improved form.

We need to fall, we need to go through the fire, and we need to know that the more we fall, the better we fall, the less likely we will get damaged, and the faster we can recover. That’s the lesson for today: don’t be afraid of falling; instead, learn how to fall.

When I was studying Judo we learned how to fall so that we would minimize the pain and the damage, and in our walk with the Lord we need to learn how to fall with grace and compassion (for ourselves), then to get up and keep on keepin’ on. Walking with God is hard, and you will have many roadblocks and falls, but you’ve got to keep on truckin’, Baby!

Falling can hurt, and if you let falling slow you down or make you quit, you will be a loser in the most important race of your life, no…make that the most important race of your eternity! Expect to fall, learn how to fall in control, and when you do you will fall with less damage and you will be able to get back up on your feet faster.

Don’t worry about taking a tumble or two, it’s only going to make you stronger. And take comfort in knowing that God is always there to help you back up on your feet.