12 Tribes: What’s in a Name?

A number of times in the Old Testament, the 12 tribes are listed together. However, when you account for the adoption of the sons of Joseph, there are actually 13 tribes. In a way, splitting the tribe of Joseph into two accounts for the tribe of Levi being given to the Lord. This keeps the number of tribes to receive the inheritance in the promised land at 12. But, it also means that various lists of 12 tribes contain a different set of 12 tribes.

When Jacob’s wives give birth to his sons and when Joseph has his sons, the Bible records a sentence that someone said at the birth of the child and the sentence contains the meaning of the name.

It’s interesting to look at the event taking place, the order the 12 tribes are listed (it’s almost always different), and the sentences spoken at the birth of the sons or the meaning of their names.

In 1 Chronicles 11 and 12, all Israel is being gathered together to David at Hebron. They take Jebus, the stronghold of Zion (or Jerusalem) from the Jebusites and it becomes the city of David. We then read about David’s trusted advisors and mighty men of war.

Towards the end of chapter 12, there is a list of the 12 tribes. The list is interesting because all 13 tribes are mentioned. However, Rueben and Gad are lumped together as one. I think we can reasonably conclude this because the number of men that came to David from each tribe is given, except that the number of men from Rueben and Gad is one number.

The order of the tribes is Judah, Simeon, Levi, Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, Zebulun, Naphtali, Dan, Asher, Rueben/Gad.

Remember the situation. All Israel has gathered together to David, their king. Could we think of this as Israel being gathered to God? If we remember that God is often pictured as a husband to Israel, then the order of the tribes might say something like this:

“I will praise the Lord. The Lord has heard that I am hated. But, my husband will be attached to me. I will not fear. God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction and made me forget all of my hardship. God has given me wages and endowed me with a good endowment. With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled and prevailed. God has judged me. Happy am I because the Lord has looked upon my affliction and good fortune has come.”

So, is this situation not similar or analogous to Jesus gathering together all those who believe into his bride? When we come to the Lord, doesn’t this sound like something we could say?

A Psalm for a People Yet to Be Created

In its title, Psalm 102 says it is a prayer of one afflicted when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord. Many psalms have this voice of the one afflicted, the one in terrible grief, the one being crushed under great persecution from his enemies, the one whose body is suffering great sickness. But, after the psalmist cries out in anguish, in almost every case he turns his eyes to the Lord and begins to declare his trust in Him.

Crying out in pain then declaring trust in the Lord is a recurring theme throughout the Bible. Think of Job when he says that though God slay him yet will he trust or hope in God. Or, Jesus in the garden, sweating drops of blood as he prays, asking if there is a way that he can avoid the cup, but saying not my will be but yours be done Father.

In Psalm 102, we read the plaintive cry of a man who sees his life is short and his end of days is near. But, in verses 12-13, he writes, “But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations. You will arise and have pity on Zion [the city of God’s people].” The psalmist goes on to write the Lord builds up Zion and appears in his glory there.

But, I love what the psalmist writes in verse 18, “Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.” He knows that what he and the others of his day are enduring is not just for them but for a people yet to be created.

This word create is the same as in Genesis 1 when it says that in the beginning God created the heavens and earth. Throughout the entire Bible the only subject of the Hebrew word for create (bara) is God. God is the only one that creates. And, God recorded the words of this psalmist for a people that he had not created yet. Created not in physical sense, for typically the Bible does not use the word create in a physical sense. But, a people yet to be created for a specific purpose and function, which is what God gives when he creates.

Now, that people has been created. It is made up of all believers in Jesus. Basically, the Jews believed there were two races – Jews and Gentiles. But, the early Christians saw themselves as a new race. Indeed they called themselves the third race, or the new man. They saw themselves as a new people. This is why we read in Galatians that there is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ.

Back to the psalm. Why was this people created? To praise God! What were they to praise God for? It’s in verses 19-22:

“…that he looked down from his holy height; to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die, that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord, and in Jerusalem his praise, when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the Lord.”

Let us be that people, giving praise and thanks to the Lord in all things.

Do You Hear the Voice of the Lamb?

Psalm 81 starts with a call to praise God. The call is to praise God on our feast day. One of the feast days in Israel was the Passover, which is alluded to after the introductory call to praise God.

“…when he went out over the land of Egypt.”

Here is the reference to the Passover. And, it was on this day that God made a statute, a rule, a decree.

“I hear a language I had not known.”

The psalmist hears a voice he has not known. Like any well-written piece of literature, the Scriptures speak with more than one voice (why would we expect something less from God’s book?). This paper by Brad Jersak notes four voices. The first three are the voice of the accuser, the voice of the victim, and the voice of the law. These were the voices that psalmist was used to hearing. But, now he hears a voice he had not known before – the voice of the Lamb. When we read Scripture, we must discern which voice is speaking.

“I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket. In distress you called, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah.”

The old voices were demanding, each in their own way. The old voices constantly required something from the psalmist. But, this new voice, the voice of the Lamb, relieves and frees. The Lamb comes in the place of darkness and the time of distress and removes the burden of working to please God. This voice does not demand but loves.

“Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me!”

To admonish is literally to put in the mind or to train by word. If we would just listen to this new voice, the voice of the Lamb, it is trying to correct our thinking on who He is and what He longs for from us. This new voice is calling us to repent, to change the way we think about God, sin, and righteousness.

“There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.”

Here is the statute, rule, and decree the psalmist spoke of earlier. We shouldn’t listen to any other voice but the voice of the Lamb.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

The God who brought us out of Egypt, out of the world and its ways, the God of the Passover, that’s our God. He longs to feed us. He longs for us to feast on Him, but we must open our mouth wide to receive what He wants to give us.

“But my people did not listen to my voice…so I gave them over to their stubborn hearts.”

We reject the voice of the Lamb. We won’t listen to it. So, God gives us to the other voices until we see the folly of their counsel.

“Oh, that my people would listen to me…I would soon subdue their enemies.”

God is calling us to turn from these other voices. He is calling us to listen to the voice of the Lamb. If we turn, then He will silence these other voices and their demands upon us.

“He would feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

If you hear the voice of the Lord, of the Deliverer, the Lamb, then you will be fed the finest bread, your mind will be filled with the finest truth, and you will get honey from the rock, sweetness from Christ. You will feast with the Lord and He will satisfy you.

Draw Near to God to Hear Words of Peace

Psalm 85:8-9 –“Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.”

The psalmist starts by acknowledging that God has restored his people, forgiven their iniquity, covered their sin, and withdrew his wrath from them. But, it appears that his people once again find themselves in trouble and facing God’s wrath once again. The psalmist asks God to put away his indignation. Will God be angry with his people forever. Is it God’s wrath? Or, is it those living by the sword dying by the sword? Is it our own evil coming back upon us?

This is where we get the quote above. When God’s people draw near to him, they hear the words of peace that he speaks. He speaks these words of peace to his people, to his saints. The world doesn’t hear these words of peace. Are you hearing God speaking peace (not just the absence of war, but safety, security, and provision for all) or are you hearing God speak vengeance, vindictiveness, and retribution?

I’ve been meditating on the repentant turning away from lies and murder, the things that mark Satan’s kingdom. And, here the psalmist says that God’s people cannot return to their folly. God’s people cannot return to their old, empty ways of lying and violence, evil, wickedness, and murder. His salvation is near to those who fear him. His salvation is near brings to mind Jesus’ statement that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, the kingdom of God is near. Instead of lies and murder, his kingdom is marked by truth and love, peace, joy, and righteousness. When God’s people enter into this, glory dwells in the land.

You Can Trust God Because His Name Is a Fact

Psalm 9:9-10 – “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

The Psalms regularly declare that God is our fortress, stronghold, strong tower, rock, refuge, etc. These are all allusions to the cities of refuge in Joshua 20 (and a couple of other places). Those cities of refuge give us a picture of Christ. In particular, the names of those cities reveal Christ’s character and how those cities function as our refuge.

As the scripture above says, those who know God’s name can put their trust in him. What is God’s name? When Moses asks God who should he tell the Israelites sent him, God responds to Moses, “Tell them I Am sent you.” God’s name is I Am. This name is a statement of fact, not a promise. If God’s name were a promise it would be I Will.

Sure, the Bible has something like 7,000 promises. But, even better than the promises of God are the facts of God. His name is a statement of fact. In scripture the name I Am (which is often translated Jehovah or LORD – yes all caps) is often followed by one of the attributes of God. For example, I Am healer or I Am provider. We can trust his name because of these facts. And, we should declare his name, and these facts, with thanksgiving at all times.

I Am is what God says about himself. But, how do we say his name? He Is. This is the same thing as I Am. It’s how someone who is not I Am would say his name to someone else. Hebrews 11:6 is written in this exact way – one person telling another about God. It says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He Is, and that He Is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” But, what if God was speaking that directly? If might say something like “But without faith it is impossible to please me, for he who comes to me must believe that I Am, and that I Am a rewarder of those who diligently seek me.”

Further, God’s name is also You Are for this name is what we say when we are speaking directly to God in agreement with his name, character, and nature. You Are holy. You Are good. You Are gracious.

I Am. You Are. He Is. This is just a conjugation of the verb to be for that is God’s name. How wonderful and important it is to know the name and the facts associated with the name of God. The facts of His name are why we can trust Him.

Your View of God Is a Reflection of You

A passage in Psalm 18 really stood out to me this morning.

“With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless you show yourself blameless; with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.”

The conception among many Christians is that God is angry with us. If we don’t repent, then He pour out His wrath on us. I’m not saying this is completely wrong, but I believe God has been leading me to go deeper than I, and many other Christians, have in the past on this idea.

Yes, we have sinned horribly against God. We denied him. We believed the lie about Him, that He was keeping something from us. We took the lie so far that when He came to earth as Jesus, one who was perfect and Isaiah 53:9 says did no violence and no deceit was found in his mouth, we crucified Him. Our sin murdered Jesus. Our corrupt, wicked, evil system, which is really Satan’s kingdom, murdered God. For that we must repent if we want to enter the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, eternal life. This was the thrust of Jesus’ entire ministry for the first words of His ministry were “The kingdom of heaven is at hand, repent and believe the gospel.”

But, for those that don’t repent, is it God’s wrath that will be poured out on them? Or, is it the lies and the violence of the unrepentant themselves that will come back on their own head? Throughout the Bible we see that the pit the wicked dug they themselves fall into. Or, the snare that evil people set they get caught in themselves. And, in the depictions of Satan (for example, Goliath and Haman), he is almost always killed with his own weapon.

The repentant have become merciful, blameless, and purified. And, to the repentant God shows Himself as such. But, to the unrepentant, the crooked, God makes Himself seem tortuous. It seems to them like God is vengeful, spiteful, and vindictive, pouring His wrath out on them. However, in reality it is their own lies and violence that is coming back on their own heads (the Psalms often speak of this idea).

Satan’s kingdom is marked by two things – lies and murder (John 8). Satan’s character is to lie, therefore he speaks lies and is the father of lies. All those in his kingdom, the unrepentant, do the same because Satan is their father. Satan is also a murderer from the beginning, having spiritually murdered Adam and Eve. All those in his kingdom, the unrepentant, do the same because Satan is their father. In Satan’s kingdom, the lies and murder (as well as all evil, violence, and wickedness) will escalate until that kingdom is completely burned down as it reaps what it sows.

Again, remember Isaiah 53:9. “And they made his [Jesus] grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” Jesus didn’t do those things because they are not in His, or God’s, nature. This is why Jesus could say in John 14:30-31, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world [Satan] approaches. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

So, while God permits this, is the wrath His? Or, is he simply letting the unrepentant reap what they have sown? Is God rewarding the unrepentant according to their deeds?

Could it even be “God’s wrath” that will be poured out? Based on what we see in Jesus, who is the radiance and glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature (Hebrews 1), wouldn’t this be God returning evil for evil? Remember Jesus did no violence and spoke no lies. He does not operate anything at all like the world, the system, that we see around us. Rather, Jesus, God, returns evil with good.

All this speaks to why Jesus says that we must repent to enter His kingdom. There must be a complete change of mind and attitude, seeing the earth and fellow men and women in a completely different light, so that we can be and do differently than we ever have before.

Just something I’ve been meditating on for a while now.

Psalm 17 – Is It David or Jesus?

Psalm 17 – A Prayer of David. That’s what my Bible says. But, is it David or Jesus that is speaking?

In my message yesterday, I mentioned that all lie and murder or do violence in that they have denied God by exchanging the truth about him for the lie. As a result, when God came in to the world through, Jesus all men murdered Jesus with their sin.

But, Isaiah 53:9 says that Jesus was different. It says he did no violence and had no deceit on his lips. Therefore, I think we can read Psalm 17 as a prayer from Jesus. Sure, David wrote it. And, every word was most likely true for him. But, the spirit of it is Jesus.

The psalm asks God to give ear to the speaker’s prayer because his lips were free from deceit. The only one that ever truly say that was Jesus. And by the word of God’s lips, the speaker has avoided the ways of the violent. Again, only Jesus never did any violence.

Jesus Daily Meets My Needs through Scripture

Today, I’m speaking at church that is having an open air meeting for the community and a BBQ afterwards. The church/community is in the projects on the west side of the city.

I had been praying about what to speak about. First, I thought about a message that I had put together on repentance. But, I didn’t think I should do that the first time I was with this group. It was pretty hard hitting and I wanted to do something more uplifting, exciting. So, I decided against the first impression God gave me.

Second, I thought I repeat a message I gave earlier in the year in the Philippines. It was called “Christ, Our Interpreter.” The Lord has had that idea heavy on my heart for more than a year. I figured this would be better since no one knew who I was. I think my real thought was that it would make me more likable.

But, yesterday I talked with the pastor of the church and he informed of the open air meeting. He said when they do that type of meeting he likes to make sure that the gospel is presented. Well, the Lord settled it right there. I was to give the message on repentance. I should have listened to the Lord the first time around.

Which brings me to today’s reading. Many of the psalms that were in the reading are in my message, fitting perfectly with what I’m speaking about. Once again the Lord has provided through His Word, Jesus, just what I need in the scripture for that day. Over and over, Jesus confirms things for me through the scripture.

Are You Focusing on the Function or the Form?

In 2 Samuel 16, God is looking for a new king to replace Saul. Saul was chosen because of his outward appearance. But, as Samuel is looking for a new, God tells him, “Do not look on his outward appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Everything created has a purpose, function, and form. They come in that order. First a purpose is given, which gives rise to a function so that the purpose can be fulfilled. Then a form is given so that the function can be expressed. God starts with purpose, then gives function, then form. Form follows function, as the saying goes.

But, man looks at the outward appearance, or the form first. Saul was a full head taller than everyone. He was handsome. Then, we assume that the form dictates the function. Well…because Saul looked like he did, he should king. They put form before function. This is Satanic!

In Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, we read that Satan’s pride and fall began because he was caught up in how beautiful he was – his form. He ignored the function God gave him – a covering cherub – and because of his form believed he should rule everything, including God. Satan’s God-given function was the most exalted in creation, save being God. Satan tricked Eve into focusing on the form of the tree of knowledge of good and evil instead of the function of the tree of life (she would need it to stay alive). I believe scripture shows that tree of the knowledge of good and evil was big and beautiful but the tree of life was a vine growing along the ground.

I could go on and on (and I am in a book I am writing), but the lesson is not to get caught up in the outward appearance. It can be very deceiving. Focus on the form and you will lose site of your function. Instead, focus on the function and the purpose God wants fulfilled. That is where life is.

A Rejection of Jesus as King?

Jude 5 says that Jesus saved Israel out of Egypt and destroyed those who did not believe (I’m thinking the Egyptians at the Red Sea). Also, the angel of the Lord, there’s Jesus again, led the battle to conquer the promised land in Joshua. If you delivered a people from their oppressors while destroying the oppressors and conquered the land that people settled in, then wouldn’t you be the king of that people? So, could we say, in some sense, that Jesus was Israel’s king?

During the period of the judges, Israel was between periods of attack and relative peace. Towards the end of this period, Israel looked at Samuel’s sons, who took bribes. I can imagine Israel thinking these sons would be next in line to judge. So, they asked Samuel to put a king over them. They wanted a visible, tangible king that would make them like every other nation. Perhaps they hoped they could establish a more permanent peace with this king.

Samuel didn’t like the idea. But, God said to Israel have their king. They were rejecting him, not Samuel. So, in a sense, wasn’t Israel rejecting Jesus as king?

The rest of the Old Testament shows nothing good happened as a result of Israel rejecting God’s sovereignty. Basically, the result was a lot of violence.

The same is true for us when we reject Jesus, the Prince of Peace, as king today. According to James, it is from our lustful desires, ultimately a rejection of Jesus’ sovereignty so that we can rule, that all strife and war come.