Sunday, April 23, 2017

Block 66: Levi

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  Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.Isaiah 43:18

Together with his brother, Simeon, Levi avenged his sister’s rape by viciously killing the Schechemites. Just before he died, when Jacob gave his final blessings (and prophecies), Levi was not given any land, but was given cities instead.  Levi was told that “God was his inheritance.” The tribe of Levi was scattered throughout Israel.  Even though Levi’s response to his sister’s rape was extraordinarily vicious, Levi had always been known to be extraordinarily pious.  He followed religious regulations, revered God and turned many others from sin.  It is said that God appreciated Levi’s pious nature, forgave his earlier misdeeds and made special provision for the Levites.  Some records indicate that on his deathbed, Jacob entrusted Levi with the “secrets of the ancients,” (Book of Jubilees) typically reserved for priests and prophets.
Compared to his brothers who all inherited land, Levi seemed to fare very well. His descendants would become the priests and prophets that would later lead the Israelites to the Promised Land.  Moses, Aaron and Miriam were all descendants of Levi’s grandson, Amram.  Before the exodus, the oldest of each family took on the priestly role, but after the exodus, only descendants of Aaron (Levites) were allowed to become priests.  The Levites sang during Temple ceremonies,  took care of the Temple and guarded the Tabernacle.  Levites also served as judges and teachers.  They translated and explained the Torah when it was read in public.
How could a murderer end up in God’s good graces?  Well this is the ultimate story of forgiveness and restoration.  The Levites were cursed, but as a result of their faith, God turned the curse into a blessing.  He can, and WILL, do the same for us.  When we our lives seamed curse, we must turn to our faith and know that God can turn our hardship into a blessing.

I chose Star of Destiny to represent Levi, because it was his destiny to beget the line of priests and prophets that set the stage for the Messiah to come — the Messiah who died that our sins might be forgiven, just as God forgave Levi’s sins.

Block 65: Simeon

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"Cursed be their anger...’” Genesis 49:7
Each of the twelve sons of Jacob received a blessing when Jacob was on his deathbed.  The twelve sons were chosen to lead the twelve tribes of Israel, and Jacob’s blessing contained a prophetic message for each one.  Simeon and Levi were paired together when Jacob chastised them.
Simeon was Jacob’s second son by Leah, his first wife.  By all accounts, Simeon was fearless, but he was also green with envy and hatred toward his brother Joseph (Jacob’s favorite son).  How far would Simeon go?  Some say Simeon was the one who encouraged the other brothers to have Joseph killed; others say Simeon was the one who prolonged Joseph’s life and had him thrown into the pit.  Simeon was furious when he learned that Judah sold Joseph rather than killing him.
When Simeon’s sister, Dinah, was raped by a Canaanite from Schechem, Simeon and Levi took revenge, tricking the Schechemites into circumsising themselves, then killing them all while they were weak.  Jacob criticized Simeon, pointing out that he and Levi had put the entire family at risk of retaliation. In his deathbed blessing, Jacob says that Simeon’s descendants would become scattered and divided in the Promised Land.  Jacob’s words become truth, as Simeon is the only tribe that Moses does not bless in Deuteronomy 33:7.  Simeon is given a few cities in Judah, but eventually his descendants are absorbed by the tribe of Judah, and they ultimately disappear from history.
Simeon teaches us a very valuable lesson.  When we allow our anger to boil over without restraint, it can lead to sinful behavior, which can lead to punishment.  Likewise, if we hang around with angry persons, we are likely to become embroiled in their wrongdoings.  The best advise is to NOT let anger get the best of us.

As a result of his vicious behavior, Simeon was cursed and his tribe ultimately completely disappeared from Judah.  I chose the Disappearing Four-Patch to represent Simeon’s disappearing tribe.



Sunday, April 16, 2017

Block 64: Asher

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“’For I know the plans I have for you...’” Jeremiah 29:11
Leah’s maidservant, Zilpah, bore Asher, Jacob’s eighth son.  When Asher was born, Leah exclaimed, “How happy am I!” Genesis30:13.  Asher’s name means “happy,” and he had every reason to be happy.  When Jacob blessed his twelve sons in Genesis 49, he  said Asher would have a life blessed with an abundance; he would dine on rich foods and produce foods fit for a king (Gen. 49:20).
And he did. Asher and his tribe lived in a land of rich pastures, and he shared his bounty with is brothers and their tribes.  Asher’s prosperity made him complacent, however, and he did not work to drive the Canaanites out of the towns that he had been given.  While his fellow tribes fought against the Canaanites, Asher was content to hang back along his beautiful Mediterranean coastline.  Much later, Asher did join his fellow tribes in an effort to drive back the Midianites and Amelekites. In a show of support for his action, Asher was invited to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem with the Northern Tribes. 
Like Asher, it is easy for us to become complacent when the going is good.  We conveniently forget that our bounty is a gift and blessing from God.  When the going gets tough, however, we are much more likely to turn to God, seeking his assistance and blessings.  Why is it so hard to remember, always, that God is in control and has wonderful plans for us.

(P.S.  Let’s not forget that Asher played a role in selling Joseph, his brother, into slavery… Forgetting, once again, that God’s plans are the only plans that count.)

God promised that Asher’s land would be bountiful, and it was.  I chose Peace and Plenty to represent Asher’s bounty.


Block 63: Gad

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“...he shall overcome at last.” Genesis 49:19
The competition among Jacob’s wives to bear his son was fierce.  Leah had stopped conceiving after her fourth son.  Rachel had not borne any sons yet, so she gave her maidservant (Bilhah) to Jacob to bear (2) sons.  Not wanting to be outdone, Leah gave her maidservant (Zilpah) to Jacob, and Zilpah also bore two sons.  The first was Gad.  (Remember, Rachel and Leah were sisters.  Jacob loved Rachel, but was tricked into marrying Leah.)  And to add a further twist to this confusing family tree, Bilhah and Zilpah were actually younger half-sisters to Leah and Rachel.  All were Laban’s daughters.
Gad was named by his adoptive mother, Leah, and his name means “troop.”  When Jacob and his family arrived in Egypt, Gad was already a father to seven sons.  Before his death, when Jacob blessed his 12 sons and established the twelve tribes of Israel and Judah, he compared Gad to a lion, predicting the mighty warriors that would arise from Gad’s clan—warriors that would strike down Israel’s enemies and reclaim the Promised Land.  And Gad’s tribe needed to be strong.  Gad had inherited land on the border and was tasked with guarding the north-east side of the country.
Gad was not afraid to show his might.  When the fugitive King David needed help, Gad rushed to his aid.  Over the years, invaders and robbers tested Gad’s might, but Gad prevailed.  It was not easy, however, and surely Gad’s faith was tested many times.  But God keeps his promises, and in Genesis 49:19 it was prophesied, “Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at last.” 
The most important thing that we can learn from Gad (and all of the other tribes) is that complete and utter faith and trust in God will be rewarded (in God’s time, according to God’s plan).

I chose Fifty-four Forty or Fight to represent Gad, whose name means “troup.”  God intended Gad to fight to defend the borders of Israel, and He promised victory to Gad and his tribe.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Block 62: Zerubbabel

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“’and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you.’” Haggai 2:23
Imagine the overwhelming joy, mixed with fear and trepidation, as the high priest Joshua and Zerubbabel led the first wave of Jews (42,000+) back to Jerusalem after years of Babylonian captivity.  With the blessings of King Cyrus, they also returned the gold and silver vessels that King Nebuchadnezzar had removed from the temple.  Encouraged by Haggai’s prophecies, Zerubbabel completed the temple reconstruction in four years.   The years were not consecutive.  The foundation was laid in the first two years, then after a seventeen-year hiatus, the construction resumed. This second temple became known (by historians) as Zerubbabel’s temple.  Zerubbabel was given a special blessing.  Haggai recounted the blessing at God’s direction, I will take you, Zerubbabel My servant, the son of Shealtile, says the Lord, and will make you as a signet ring; for I have chosen you." Haggai 2:23
What was the significance of being called a signet ring?  Ancient kings would often use a signet ring to indicate their authority or ownership.  The ring would be used to stamp a seal of hot wax on a document to indicate it’s authenticity and authority.  God was granting the Governor Zerubbabel  a place of honor and authority.  As God’s signet ring, God granted Zerubbabel the ultimate authority —  Zerubbabel was a descendent of King David,  and was now chosen to be an ancestor of Jesus (Luke 3:27). 
As Zerubbabel worked to construct the second temple, he faced many obstacles.  Many men would have given up, but Zerubbabel was chosen to be God’s signet ring.  In Zechariah 4:7, God addressed the challenges that Zerubbabel faced, promising that Zerubbabel would be successful in completing the temple, shouting “God bless it, God bless it.”  When we face a seemingly insurmountable task, we should try Zerubbabel’s approach and worship and praise God, remembering that God has an answer for us at His altar.  God will meet our every need.  He may not always give us what we want, but he will meet our every need.

I chose the Wishing Ring block to represent Governor Zerubbabel who was designated as God’s signet ring.