Sanctified by commandments.

Many Jewish prayers that are said before doing a mitzvah, a commandment, include words praising God “who has sanctified us by Your commandments…”

Let’s look at that again. We are sanctified by commandments. They separate us and make us special. When we do what God wants, we become more human and less like animals. Animals and small children do whatever they want without thinking about it. They don’t care about the repercussions or plan for the future. They live for right now and what makes them happy. Rules are for other people.

A sign of maturity is being able to willingly follow rules, not just following them out of a sense of duty. To see the rules as a blessing, as something that causes us to become holy, is really special.

What “altar” really means.

The Hebrew word for altar is

Mem, Vav, Vet, Chet. (read right to left)

Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a meaning, and if you string those meanings together, you can understand what the word truly means.

Mem means – water with no boundaries, chaos.
Vav means – “and”, hook, nail
Vet (also Bet) – means tent, house, enclosure
Chet means – fence, separate, a new beginning or new creation.

Together, this can be taken to mean “From the waters of chaos I have rescued you and brought you into a new life.”

It refers to the waters from the beginning of time – when “God moved over the waters” to create the world. It refers to the waters of the Red Sea, through which God sent Israel to escape from slavery in Egypt. It refers to the waters of the womb, where God creates us by dividing us, dividing the cells into their individual roles – an eye here, a stomach there…

God separates us, divides us to form us, to make us unique. God “hooks” us, grabs us, takes us into the tent, the house of God. The tent can be seen as the tabernacle, the same temporary house of Sukkot, the temporary dwelling of our bodies.

God is the God of the living, not the dead

Let us consider when some Sadducees were challenging Jesus about the resurrection. This story appears in MT 22:23-33, MK 12:18-27, and LK 20:27-38. They were asking him a legalistic question about marriage and inheritance laws. They thought that they were going to trip him up on the religious authority of Moses. Just before, the Pharisees had tried to catch him up regarding civil law. Both groups were trying to discredit him by making him refute higher, established authority. This would get him in trouble with the crowds and make them leave him. It might also get him arrested – something they wanted. They desperately wanted him to stop talking and for people to stop listening to him.

Instead, Jesus turned the tables on them and taught them even more than they were asking.

Here’s my condensed version of the most important part here –

–He continued, getting to the real reason for their question. “Concerning the resurrection of the dead, don’t you remember the passage in Scriptures when God spoke to Moses from the burning bush? He said ‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ We learn from this that God is the God of the living, not the dead, because in God’s eyes, all are living with him.”–

Note that God uses the present tense, not the past. If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their forefathers from thousands of years earlier, were dead in God’s eyes, God would have said “I was…” not “I am…” This is essential to his argument, and essential for us today.

If we live in faith and in accordance with God’s will, then we, the real part of us, never die. Our bodies are just vessels for our souls. Our bodies are temporary, while our souls are eternal. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were with God when God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, and are with God right now.

This is proof of eternal life. The death of the body isn’t death, not in any real sense. Jesus wanted the Sadducees to know this, and wants us to know this right now.

The Sadducees and the Resurrection

The same day some Sadducees who didn’t believe in the resurrection approached Jesus to challenge him on the laws of Moses.

“Teacher, Moses taught us that if a married man dies childless, his brother must marry his wife and have children with her – legally, they are his brother’s children.

Consider this – once there were seven brothers. The first married and died childless. The second brother married her and he too died without having any children. One after the other, all seven of the brothers married this same woman and died, leaving her childless. Then she finally died. Therefore, when the resurrection happens, whose wife will she be, since she had been married to all seven of them?”

“None of you know the Scriptures or the power of God,” Jesus said. “People in this age marry and are given in marriage, but it won’t be like that in the age to come. In the resurrection, people are like angels. There is no need for them to marry.”

He continued, getting to the real reason for their question. “Concerning the resurrection of the dead, don’t you remember the passage in Scriptures when God spoke to Moses from the burning bush? He said ‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ We learn from this that God is the God of the living, not the dead, because in God’s eyes, all are living with him.”

They were impressed with what he had just taught them.

MT 22:23-33, MK 12:18-27, LK 20:27-38

God and Caesar

Then the Pharisees began to plot, trying to trap him by his words. They sent some of their disciples along with some of the members of a Jewish political party. They wanted to get him arrested by the civil authorities.

They asked him “Teacher, we know that you correctly teach God’s laws and that you treat everyone the same, regardless of who they are. Tell us your opinion on this, then – according to the law, are we supposed to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

Jesus knew what they were up to and said “Why are you testing me? Show me a denarius. Whose picture and name is on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they all said.

“You have your answer,” Jesus said. “Give back to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and give back to God the things that belong to God.”

They were all speechless at his answer.

MT 22:15-22, MK 12:13-17, LK 20:20-26

Healing sin by naming it.

Proverbs 28:13 – “The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.” (HCSB)

The word “sin” turns many people off and they just stop listening. It is simply any failing or fault. It is any time we fail to live up to our potential. It is any stumbling block. The word has such deeper meaning than we are able to give it.

It is gossiping.
It is overeating.
It is fear of failure that is
so crippling
we never even start.
It is any time we trust
in our own ways
rather than trusting God.

Sure it is also the usual that we think of when we think of sin. It is lying, stealing, murder. But mostly it is anything we let rule our lives, anything that prevents us from living a whole and holy life. Anything.

Confessing our sins is the greatest form of strength. It is the greatest weapon we have against them. Let us think of “confession” as “naming”.

It takes courage to say
“I’m angry and I’ve let anger rule my actions.”
It takes courage to say
“I have a hard time with impulse control.
I eat (or) say whatever I want
without thinking about the consequences.”

It takes courage to admit we need help. When we name our failings and faults we are bringing our wounds and our brokenness before the greatest healer of all, God. We say “I can’t do this on my own, and I need your help.” God heals us if we name our faults, and then turn away from what we are doing.

It can be very hard to turn away. Bad habits are hard to break. They are the “devil you know”. You’d rather stick with them than do something new and healthy. But by naming our faults, we are like so many people who went up to Jesus for healing.

Let us quickly look at the story of Jesus healing the blind man. The entire story is to be found in MT 20:29-34, MK 10:46-52, and LK 18:35-43.

…. Jesus asked him “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus said, “Teacher I want to see!”

Jesus knew very well what Bartimaeus needed. But the issue is – did Bartimaeus? Only after naming his weakness was Jesus able to heal him.

Let us continue with a little more of the story.
…. Moved with compassion, Jesus said “Open your eyes. Your faith has healed you.”

Often Jesus said to people “Do you believe I can heal you?” And they said “Yes!” Then he simply said “Your faith has healed you.”

Believing that Jesus can heal you is the healing.

But first you have to confess to name your weakness. Give it to God, and God will turn your weakness into his glory. The thing is, can you name your own problem?

Naming it takes away its power.
It means it isn’t you.
You are a child of God.
You aren’t alcoholism
or compulsive gambling
or lying.

Naming the problem helps you separate it from your idea of yourself and helps God heal you.

If you can’t yet name your problem, then give that to God. Say “God, please help me to recognize where I need healing.” God will enter into your heart right where you are, right as you are, right then.