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Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Real Housewives Of The OT (Old Testament)--This Week featuring "Lot's Wife"--by Linda P. Kozar

Lot's Wife

"Looking back, I think I could have done things differently."

Even people who don't know much about the bible have heard of Lot's wife, the woman who turned into a condiment. Or is it a spice? If so, you might want to think of her as the original “Spice Girl.”

That's right, she turned into a pillar of salt. The manner of her demise--disobedience and death by salt is bad enough, but how would you like to be known through time immemorable, not by your own name, but only as somebody's wife?

Some commentaries claim her name was Aidith or Irith. A native of Sodom (or is is Sodium), it is likely she grew up there. Perhaps her exended family resided in that infamous city. She was mother to two daughters, although some speculate that she may have had four, two married daughters and two bethrothed. Since this cannot be proven otherwise,  we will assume she had two. The two daughters are mentioned in Genesis 19:8) as "virgins," and in (Genesis 19:14) 'Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law who were to marry his daughters. . ."

It is interesting to note that there are two sisters both in human form and allegorically in the two main cities destroyed by God. All the towns in the valley of Siddim were destroyed as well, with the exception of Zoar (I will explain why later). But what was the sin of Sodom and her sister city Gomorrah?
God Himself answers the question through Ezekiel in chapter 16:49-50 (The Message Bible), "'The sin of your sister Sodom was this: She lived with her daughters in the lap of luxury—proud, gluttonous, and lazy. They ignored the oppressed and the poor. They put on airs and lived obscene lives. And you know what happened: I did away with them."
Do a little research and it is easy to find people who claim God destroyed the cities and their inhabitants for merely being "inhospitable" to the poor. But there is no precedence for such a thing in the bible. The only scripture that even comes close (Matthew 10-14-15) references Jesus advising His disciples whom He sent to share the good news, "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town." For the best possible answer to our questions, we must turn to the best possible source--scripture.

Let's begin with Abraham in Genesis 18. At rest under the shade of a Terebinth tree, Abraham looks up and see's three "men" approach. He offered them hospitality, entreating them to rest a while with him under the shade. But later, when these men (angels) rose up to go, one of the "men," the Lord Himself, spoke to Abraham, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am going to do?" God had already pronounced judgment on the the city. He was going in person, to check it one last time. The Lord goes on to say:
"...Because the shriek [of the sins] of Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is exceedingly grievous, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether [as vilely and wickedly] as is the cry of it which has come to Me; and if not, I will know." AMP
Abraham inquires of God if He would spare the city if only 50 righteous men were to be found there, and then to progressively lower numbers, to which God agrees each time. So God relents somewhat in His plan to destroy the city. The righteous, if any be found, will not be destroyed with the wicked.
"It was evening when the two angels came to Sodom. Lot was sitting at the city gate. Seeing them, Lot rose up to meet them and bowed to the ground. And he said, My Lords, turn aside, I beg of you, in your servant's house and spend the night and bathe your feet. Then you can arise early and go on your way. But they said, No, we will spend the night in the square" Genesis 19:1-2. AMP
Lot was afraid for the men. He didn't want them to stay in the square overnight. The city of Sodom had a bad reputation for its treatment of strangers. . .make that a bad reputation. . .period.
"Lot entreated and urged them greatly until they yielded and [with him] entered the house. And he made them a dinner [with drinking] and had unleavened bread which he baked and they ate. But before they lay down, the men of the city of Sodom, both young and old, all the men from every quarter, surrounded the house" Genesis 19:2-3. AMP
And why did all the men from every part of the city crowd around the house?
"And they called to Lot and said, Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we my know (be intimate) with them. (from the Hebrew ya'da')" AMP
Lot stepped out the door and shut it behind him. He begged the men to stop behaving so wickedly, which only got them angry. They 'rushed at and pressed violently against Lot,' but before they could break down the door, the angels pulled Lot into the house and shut the door. Then the angels struck the men with blindness [which dazzled them], from the young to the very old, but they (still) kept groping for the door in vain.

The two angels asked Lot if he had sons, daughters, sons-in-law and that if so, he needed to get them out of the city right away. His sons-in-law did not take what he said seriously. So in the morning, the angels urged Lot to hurry. ". . .Arise, take your wife and two daughters who are here [and be off, lest you [too] be consumed and swept away in the iniquity and punishment of the city." But Lot and his family lingered, so the angels took him and his wife and daughters by the hand and led them out of the city, telling them to go to the mountains [of Moab] for safety. However, Lot begs them instead to allow him and his family to go to the city of Zoar (which means little). The angel agrees to let this particular city escape destruction for the sake of Lot and his family, which is the only reason Zoar survived. The angels would delay the destruction until the family arrived safely in the little city, and this was after the sun had 'risen high on the earth.'

This is where Lot's wife comes in. As they were traveling from Sodom to Zoar, she was behind Lot. His back to her—he could not see her. She must have been really bummed out to leave her life in Sodom to live in a small town. Leaving her comfy/cushy life in the city of Sodom behind to settle in Zoar would have been about as appealing as moving from New York City to a podunk town in the middle of nowhere. The temptation to look back must have been powerful since her husband could not see her do it. Her father’s house, family and friends were there. Everything she cared about was there. Surely one look back wouldn't hurt, right?

As the wife of Lot, she would have lived a wealthy, privileged lifestyle. Their home and possessions would have been luxurious. Aidith would have been attended by many servants. She would have been admired and looked up to in her society. If what the angels said was true, she was leaving behind everything she prided herself in, home, possessions, position. Would she have been totally immersed in the indulgence and morally decadent lifestyle of her countrymen as well? Though she was married to a righteous man, was there a part of her that dreaded leaving that part of her life behind? Sin has a way of seeping and creeping in--especially when we are surrounded by those engaging in it without reget, apology or repentence. In any case. she chose to disobey and was struck dead by the hand of God.

Lot's wife looked back to where her interests and substance were and she lingered behind--most likely overtaken by the fire and brimstone. What did she see? The power of God, the total destruction of the life she'd left behind. Her dead body became encrusted with salt which, grew larger over time. At the southern end of the Dead Sea, there is a mountain of salt called Jebel Usdum, the "Mount of Sodom"(about six miles long, three miles wide, and 1,000 feet high). Though it is covered with a crust of earth several feet thick, the rest of the mountain is said to be solid salt.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also"--Matthew 6:21. Lot's wife looked back at the paltry treasures of the flesh, instead of looking forward to the eternal treasures of God. The Israelites had the same kind of problem. They were always looking back to Egypt, the place of oppression and captivity, thinking what was behind was better than what God had in store for them--because they were tired of the journey.

Mt. Sodom, Israel

Jude 1:5-7 "I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." AMP
God's word admonished us in Luke 17:32 to "Remember Lot's wife." Though salt is a presevative, symbolic of God's promise of eternal life to us (because salt preserves meat, hence flesh), the incrustation of salt which surrounded the body of Lot's wife, did little to preserve her from eternal damnation. Our lives can either serve as inspiration to others or serve as a warning. Sadly, the wife of Lot will forever serve as a warning to others to look forward, not behind, to obey, not disobey.

It would do us all good to revisit the following scripture, to remember that God both delivers and destroys. The wonder, the miracle is that He has given us the choice.
2 Peter 2:4-10 "For God did not [even] spare angels that sinned, but cast them into hell, delivering them to be kept there in pits of gloom till the judgment and their doom.    And He spared not the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven other persons, when He brought a flood upon the world of ungodly [people].    And He condemned to ruin and extinction the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, reducing them to ashes [and thus] set them forth as an example to those who would be ungodly;    And He rescued righteous Lot, greatly worn out and distressed by the wanton ways of the ungodly and lawless--For that just man, living [there] among them, tortured his righteous soul every day with what he saw and heard of [their] unlawful and wicked deeds--Now if [all these things are true, then be sure] the Lord knows how to rescue the godly out of temptations and trials, and how to keep the ungodly under chastisement until the day of judgment and doom, And particularly those who walk after the flesh and indulge in the lust of polluting passion and scorn and despise authority. Presumptuous [and] daring [self-willed and self-loving creatures]! They scoff at and revile dignitaries (glorious ones) without trembling." AMP

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Real Housewives of the OT (Old Testament) Series--This Week "Jezebel" By Linda Kozar

“Looking good is better than being good.” JEZEBEL

If you’ve belonged to a church long enough, you have no doubt heard someone refer to some women as “having a Jezebel spirit.” But what does that really mean?

Let’s learn a bit about who Jezebel actually was, first:

A Phoenician princess according to First and Second Kings, Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, King of the Sidonians (Tyre), 1 Kings 16:31-33: 

“He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him.He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria.Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.”

Sidon was a rich coastal city-state, a sophisticated, cosmopolitan and cultured environment. She was and controlled large areas of the eastern Mediterranean.  Jezebel’s beliefs about the power of a monarch differed from the Israelite ideal. Her father’s will was absolute. In keeping with pagan leaders of the time, Jezebel most likely believed that monarchs had the imperial right and absolute dominion over people and state to govern according to will or whim. 

Known as the “Harlot Queen,” Jezebel’s name originally meant, ‘The Prince Baal Exists’ or ‘where is the prince?’ Baal was a weather god worshipped in the ancient world. When Baal was in the underworld or Land of the Dead, all vegetation on the earth’s surface died, a time we know as ‘winter’. During that barren season, Baal's followers would chant, ‘Where is the prince?’ as a prayer to encourage the onset of spring and the return of fruitful vegetation—their main food source. 

When Jezebel was old enough, a marriage was arranged for her with Ahab, King of Israel, whose name in Hebrew means ‘brother of the father’. Jezebel’s parents were high priest and priestess in the worship of Baal. Jezebel herself was most likely a priestess of Baal as well. She was trained to lead and to command and believed it was her duty to guard the worship of Baal and Asherah, because these gods regulated the fertility of the country in which she lived and ruled. 

The princesses’s marriage to Ahab was a political alliance, advantageous to the northern kingdom of Israel, (which at the time was divided into Israel in the north and Judah in the south), because such an alliance with Phoenicia would give them access to the Mediterranean coast and thereby rich trade. 

Jezebel converted her husband from worship of the Jewish God, to worship the god Baal and goddess Asherath--both allowing and encouraging construction of temples dedicated to their worship. Some say Ahab was a weak-willed man whom she dominated and was the true power behind the throne. In any case, she led him to do much evil. Wives and concubines in ancient Israel, were for the most part, powerless and without a voice in government and the affairs of state. However, Jezebel not only has a voice, but a sharp and clever tongue. She is more daring and independent than most women of her time, and perhaps more foolhardy.

Unwilling to accept the God of Israel, Yahweh she is vilified in private by the inhabitants of her new country because Jezebel refuses to flinch in her pagan beliefs. Jezebel is a polar opposite to Ruth, the foreign woman who is extolled for her conversion to the God of Israel and is so taken by her faith that she immerses her heart and life in the society of the Israelites.

The fact that Ahab and Jezebel worshipped Baal led to the whole of Israel falling into the sin of idolatry. As a result, the judgment of God caused drought and famine (1 Kings 17). And of course, this was embarrassing and humiliating for Jezebel since Baal was the god of weather!

In addition to her mere resistance to accepting or tolerating worship of the Israelite God, Jezebel went out of her way to have many Jewish prophets killed. So the prophet Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal to a competition, 1 Kings 18:20:
"So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him. But the people said nothing."
He exposed the pagan priests as powerless and then had the prophets of Baal slaughtered (I Kings 18:36-40):
"At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: 'LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.' Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, 'The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!'
Then Elijah commanded them, 'Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!' They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there."
Jezebel seethed with fury at the news and put a price on Elijah’s head. The queen also practiced witchcraft 2 Kings 9:22. She also used the spirit of domination and seduction to get her way. (2 Kings 9:30). She had power and knew how to use it to get what she wanted. And even though Elijah, this powerful prophet of God had called down fire and raised the dead, he ran from her, fearful and later depressed.

Naboth, an Israelite, owned a vineyard. King Ahab, desired the property for a vegetable garden because of its convenient proximity to the palace, but Naboth refused to sell the king the family property. There was a long-standing Jewish tradition that inherited property should not be sold to anyone outside the family, if the property remained continuously occupied by the same family since the settlement of Canaan. Naboth held fiercely loyal to this tradition, even to the point of defying the king. In truth, he was probably shaking his head at the fact that the king would ask such a thing so contrary to the traditions of his own countrymen. Ahab was an Israelite, and he had to understand Naboth’s reasoning regarding this situation. He also understood that the Israelite kings did not have unlimited power, as kings in surrounding countries did. On the other hand, Jezebel, grew up in Sidon, where her royal parents had unlimited power. Because of this, she was scornful of the way Ahab let his own subjects get the better of him.
She wrote letters in the king's name commanding the elders of Naboth's city to accuse him of cursing both God and his King. The elders obliged and Naboth was convicted of treason, then stoned. Upon his death the property reverted to the king, so in the end Ahab got the vineyard he wanted. Jezebel intervened and had Naboth killed simply to meet Ahab's selfish needs.

This act however, did not go unnoticed by God, who sends Elijah to the king:
"Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!
I have found you,” he answered, 'because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD' He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin.’
 And also concerning Jezebel the LORD says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’
 Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country.
 There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.
When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite: 'Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.'” 
If Ahab had not humbled himself before the Lord upon hearing this proclamation from God, judgment would have been swift, but because of this, God’s judgment was delayed. Ahab and Jezebel, in spite of their evil, lived a long time before God's judgment caught up with them.

Elijah's prophesy at the end of the vineyard story comes true when Ahab dies in Samaria and his son, Ahaziah, dies within two years of ascending the throne. He is killed by Jehu, a military commander who emerges as another contender for the throne when the prophet Elisha declares him King. Here again Jezebel's influence becomes apparent. Though Jehu has killed the king, he has to kill Jezebel in order to assume power.
According to 2 Kings 9:30-34, Jezebel and Jehu meet soon after the death of her son Ahaziah. When Jezebel heard what has happened to her son, she knew immediately what her fate would be. And in regal manner, she prepared for her death. She dressed herself in the full regalia of a queen, with the ornate ritual make-up and headdress of a priestess of Baal and Asherah. The application of cosmetics denoted her royal rank and high position. Cosmetics were applied by those considered privileged, set apart from ordinary people.
Afterwards, she went out onto the balcony of the courtyard to face Jehu as he approached. She called him ‘Zimri’, the name of a murderer and usurper of a previous king. In an act of doomed bravado, she accused and taunted the man.
Jehu responds by asking her eunuchs if they are on his side. "Who is on my side? Who?" he asks, "Throw her down!" (2 Kings 9:32). Jezebel's eunuchs betray her by throwing her out the window where her body is also trampled by horses.

Jehu decides to take a break to eat and drink (though it’s hard to understand how he would have an appetite after that scene). Hours later, he commands that that body of Jezebel be buried "for she was a king's daughter" (2 Kings 9:34). Notice that he does not call her a queen, but the daughter of a pagan king. No doubt, he commanded that she be buried in order to avoid a dangerous precedent regarding the proper burial of royalty. However, by the time his men go to bury her, a pack of dogs have eaten all but her skull, feet and the palms of her hands 2 Kings 9:21-37.

Throughout the centuries, Jezebel has been attacked as a woman of promiscuous behavior. In the bible, following after false gods can be seen as either adulterous or idolatrous. She was certainly guilty of idolatrous harlotry. But there is an absence of any clear record to suggest that Jezebel was ever adulterous and unfaithful to her husband Ahab. In fact, she seems to have been fiercely loyal to him and her sons.

So in the context of the modern church, when someone accuses a woman or women of having a “Jezebel spirit,” they may actually be accusing them of having an independent nature or of simply questioning authority. The true context of a “Jezebel spirit” would be a person who rejects God and encourages and actively seduces others to reject Him as well, in favor or pagan worship and practices.
Revelation 2:20 “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.”
There is no doubt that Jezebel got it all wrong, Her faith, her life was devoted to a pantheon of false gods and false teachings. Though exposed to the faith of the Israelites who worshipped the one true God, she chose to reject Him. As a result, her name is identified and synonymous with spiritual harlotry. The only legacy left by her life is a warning to others. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Real Housewives of the OT (Old Testament) Series--This Week: "Eve"--by Linda P. Kozar

"All I did was take a bite out of some fruit and all hell broke loose.”
Life began in a spring-watered Eden, a paradise of plants and trees, vegetation and fruits. The garden God created for His children was utterly perfect and safe. A breathtaking, beautiful place, the like of which has never been seen or experienced since. If you and I as parents, could create such a place for our children, we would. God created Adam as the first man. Made from the dust of the earth, and God breathed life into him with His own breath.

God and Adam enjoyed one another's company. The highlight of Adam's day was a walk in the cool of the evening with God the Father. They experienced a great Father/Son relationship. We tend to think of God the Father and Jesus, His only Son, but few of us ever consider that God as Trinity, created man, created a family and that God takes great joy and pleasure in His family. 

Adam loved the animals in the garden and was given the task of naming each and every one of them. However, Adam began to notice there was something different about the animals. All the animals had mates and offspring. Soon he began to wonder why he didn’t have a mate.

“And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’” Genesis 2:18.

So the Lord decided to design a perfect mate for Adam--his soul mate. Not hand-picked, but hand-made by God the Father.

“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.”

Eve, the first woman, made from a rib bone by the hand of God. She was presented by her father, to her new husband. One can imagine how awestruck Adam would have been at the sight of her. Eve and Adam would have been completely compatible, male/female reflections of one another. God made them for one another. A marriage like that would be no less than perfect--a match truly made in heaven!

Now for a question many people ask. Why was Adam made of dirt but Eve made from a rib? Have you ever wondered about that? The answer lies in the New Testament. (Ephesians 5:28-33) ". . .Because no man ever hated his own flesh." And why is that? We love ourselves. YOU are your favorite topic of conversation. Think of your children. They are a part of you. A person made from you—as every mother can attest to, is special. And Eve was special to Adam.

God made, literally built a woman whom Adam recognized as being his equal, ‘bone of my bones’ and ‘flesh of my flesh.’ (Hebrew: ezer-ke negdo) indicating mutuality. Adam was given specific instructions by God as to marriage. This concept is known as the Universal Law of Marriage.

1)    The man is to leave his father and his mother
2)    The man is to be joined to his wife
3)    The union is indissoluble—the two become one flesh.

So Adam said:

‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” Genesis 2:21-25.

Nudity in the right context, the marital union between husband and wife. God invented the act of sex. It was His design and plan for mankind, and is not sinful. Adam and Eve shared a marital bed before the fall and most definitely after the fall.

The propagation of the species is one reason for sex, but certainly not the exclusive reason for sex. Intimate relations also promote love between a man and his wife. Also, a special, sacred relationship between man and wife was designed to prevent fornication, sex outside of marriage, which is the unlawful satisfaction of the God-given sexual desire. The unity of Eve coming from Adam’s rib (Adam meaning Man from the Hebrew word ish and the Woman isha). The words joined together as they are is symbolic of the covenant relationship. It also reflects the God-ordained act of copulation under the banner of marriage.

"Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" Genesis 3:1.

The serpent's purposeful misquote of God's words was a cunning twist. What God actually said is this: Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying,  “Of every tree of the garden, you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” 

Satan is a master at the art of temptation, but he cannot force us to sin. Eve separated from Adam. Why? Was the Serpent manipulating her before she actually committed the sin? Of course. Temptation begins in the mind and gives birth to sin when we do not take those thought captive. Though Adam and Eve did not have the bible as a guide to life, they had God in person! She could have called out to Him and asked the question. "Why can't we have this fruit, Father?" And God would have answered. He would have explained with tenderness and understanding. He knows what we are thinking before a word ever escapes our lips.

"And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'" Genesis 3:2-3

Satan took the shape and likeness of a serpent. But serpents looked a lot different back then. It is possible they even had legs. The serpent made sure she was alone. Have you ever considered that? In most cases, we are alone when temptation comes strongest to us—when we are by ourselves and vulnerable, and there’s no one to talk us out of it.

The serpent was setting Adam up. Satan used Eve to betray her husband’s best interests. Satan sold her on the idea that she had to have that fruit. Eve gave in to the temptation to disobey God. She listened to the words of the serpent and decided to act on them. In fact, she found three good reasons to taste the forbidden fruit. "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate" Genesis 3:6. 

Adam trusted Eve and Eve trusted Adam. Many times, Satan initiates the same kind of betrayal against us. He turns those closest to us against us and we never see it coming because we trust and depend on them. It must also be pointed out that Adam and Eve had no guile, and were unaware of the concept of sin or subterfuge.

"And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him. 'Where are you?" So he said, 'I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.'" Genesis 3:8-10.

When God calls out for Adam and Eve, He finds them hiding, trying to cover their nakedness. And God asks, 'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?'"

Then Adam throws Eve under the bus! He blames God a little too when he says, “The woman whom YOU gave to be with me, she fave me of the tree, and I ate” Genesis 3:12. Maybe Eve forced him to take the fruit, chew and swallow it too!

Eve fared no better. Her response to God was, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate" Genesis 3:13.

Satan teaches people to doubt first, then deny. He showed Eve the advantages of eating the fruit until she felt discontented with the status quo. He made her feel that God was denying or withholding something from her and her husband. Advertising is a lot like that. The annual showcase of homes does the same thing to us quite effectively. We visit a few mansions and suddenly look at our own homes in a very unflattering light!

Satan wanted to be like the Most High God. He wanted praise and power and he was destroyed. Therefore, when he had the chance, he tried to do likewise to mankind, created in the very image of God.

Eve sinned and then convinced her husband to sin as well. Misery loves company, as they say. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the Serpent. But three curses resulted. One on the serpent. And one on the Woman and one on the Man.

Curse on the Serpent:
Genesis 3:14-15 "Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."

Curse on the Woman:
Genesis 3:16 "I will greatly multiply your sorroy and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you."

Curse on the Man:
Genesis 3 17-19 "Then to Adam He said, 'Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying 'You shall not eat of it' Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.

One can imagine what was going on in Eve's mind. “But all I did was take a bite out of some fruit!” Ah but fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now why do you think God plopped a tree like that right smack dab in the middle of the Garden of Eden and said, “Don’t touch that tree.” Any mother knows as soon as you tell your kids not to touch something, they’re going to go ahead and touch it.

Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying,  “Of every tree of the garden, you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

God put the tree there to offer man the choice—to obey or disobey. It was a monumental tree. Do you ever wonder what the fruit tasted like? You and I would probably have done the same. I’ll bet the taste of it was incredible, at first. But I’ll bet the taste of that fruit soured in their mouths after the first bite.

Before that bite, Adam and Ever were morally innocent. Case in point, they did not even realize they were naked. But afterwards, their very nature forever changed. They became sinners with a sin nature, a tendency toward fulfilling fleshly desires. They died spiritually in that every instant and at the same moment, began to die physically as well.

Adam and Eve were the first man and woman to live and walk upon the face of the earth. Because of their sin, all of mankind retained a sin nature. We were all born into spiritual death.

Eve’s sin also resulted in the subjugation of women, who became mere property to be sold into slavery or wed to a man without consent. Forced to wear veils, travel with chaperones. Not allowed to work or to do anything on their own.

“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. Genesis 3:16  But in Genesis 1:28, God says, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.

Animal mamas rarely experience pain during the birthing process. But Jesus brought up an important point. In John 16:21 He says that mothers have the ability to “forget” the pain of childbirth for the joy of seeing the child for the first time. Mothers fall in love with their babies!

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15.

We are part of that Seed God created to fight the devil!

Relationship With Her Husband:
"Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." Genesis 3:16. So what’s so wrong with that?

The Hebrew word “tesuquh” means an “unusual or striking” kind of desire—a desire to overcome or defeat another. We have the desire to gain the upper hand over our husbands, and our husbands try to squelch that desire. Until the 20th century, woman were little more than baby-making machines, property worth about as much as cattle.

Another theory is that woman might want to resist repeated pregnancies, but would find it difficult because of their desire for their husband.

Ephesians 5:23-33 shows us the way to diminish the effects of this curse. Wives are told to submit rather than contend and husbands are told to love rather than dominate.

Adam called his wife “Eve,” because she was the mother of all living. Genesis 3:20. 

Eve is an inspiration to us all. Sure, she made a mistake that unfortunately affected all of mankind, but she gave birth to our ancestors and faithfully followed God's command to be fruitful and multiply. The sin of Adam and Eve is known as the original sin--a sin so monumental that God had to send His only Son down to Earth to rectify and reconcile through the sacrifice of His own body.

But let us remember that Eve is our greatgreatgreatgreat. . .grandmama. We owe much to her and to Adam, from whom we all descend. We cannot be too hard on them because any one of us would have done the same thing. And heaven help us if the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was made of chocolate. The fall would have happened a lot quicker. . .

1850,Adam and Eve Expelled, Paul Gustave Dore

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lagniappe: A Testimony With Heart by Linda P. Kozar

Do you like bittersweet chocolate? The month of February is like that for me. My father went to be with Jesus on February 14th, Valentine's Day, 2004. But his passing on February 14th, was no coincidence. His story began 15 years earlier in 1989, a God-ordained miracle. Here is our family testimony:

"My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalms 73:26).


(Creole French for "a little something extra")

 "Life is too short to buy green bananas. Buy the ones ready to eat because you never know how long you'll have." Always ready with a clever quip and a funny face to match it, Dad kept his family forever laughing. For some reason though, he continually brought up the subject of dying, and somehow, inexplicably made it sound funny. In retrospect, perhaps joking about death was a form of bravado for him.

Dad was 47 when he was hospitalized for the first time--on Valentine's Day, 1975. But unlike his own father who died of a heart attack around that age, he lived--a tribute to modern medicine and lifestyle changes.

Years later however, on New Year's Eve, 1989, his heart rebelled again with a cluster of serious heart attacks. Dad's condition was serious and the prognosis extremely poor. Four arteries leading to his heart were blocked. Severely damaged, his heart was leaking blood from one valve, and there was an aneurysm in an outside wall that we were told, could rupture at any time, resulting in instant death.

Doctors tentatively scheduled surgery, but were waiting to see if he would gain enough strength to live through it. The death of my father seemed imminent. However, in the course of time between his first heart attack years ago and this incident, the family had asked Jesus into their hearts."

One night, after an exhausting day at the hospital, the family gathered in the kitchen. My mother was preparing to return to the hospital to spend the night at Dad's side, but before she left, we decided to pray together. Filled with the hope of God's promises, we formed a circle and joined hands, each sharing a prayer from the depth of our souls. Surely God knew our hearts were as broken emotionally as our father's was physically.
My brother prayed last and felt strongly prompted by the Lord to pray the prayer of Hezekiah over our father:

"In Second Kings, Chapter 20:1-6 (KJV), the Prophet Isaiah was sent to King Hezekiah by God and said unto him, 'Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.'  Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, wept bitterly and repented. So God answered, "...I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee...And I will add unto thy days fifteen years..."

My brother continued praying, "Lord Jesus, we ask that You will grant to us the life of our father. Let him live another fifteen years as you did King Hezekiah."

 The strength of that prayer did not shake the earth or startle us. It was a simple heartfelt prayer that we agreed upon in the presence of God.

On the night before his operation, we visited Dad. My brother asked if he wanted to receive salvation. To our surprise and delight, he agreed. That very night, Dad asked Jesus to be his Lord and Savior.

After his surgery on Valentine's Day, 1989, Dad's condition instantly improved. Doctors could suddenly find no trace of the leaking valve "fatal" aneurysm in the wall of his heart. After a quadruple by-pass, he began an astonishing recovery. He was transformed inside and out and six weeks later, was able to proudly walk me down the aisle at my wedding.

In the years that followed, mother and father became grandparents to a total of nine grandchildren. And as the years passed, so did our memory of that prayerful night. We had long ago forgotten the prayer--until the close of the fifteen years approached.

Dad contracted bronchitis, but seemed to be doing all right. Doctors prescribed medicine. An X-ray revealed that his lungs were clear. However, both my mother and brother suddenly remembered the prayer of fifteen years earlier; the illness seemed to call up the echo of its spoken word. They realized that 2004 was the fifteenth year, but said nothing to the rest of us. Perhaps, they reasoned, God would let him live longer. After all, he seemed fine.

Then, on Valentine's Day, 2004, my father suddenly slipped into congestive heart failure. The kind, young doctor who worked on him in the Emergency Room, assured our family that he would treat him as if he were his own father. God is never late, never early but always, always right on time. In spite of all the doctor's efforts, Dad faded away.

A flower fades, dries and crumbles to dust, but its fragrance remains for a time. The fragrance of that one special life remains for us and it is sweet indeed. Our world did not come to an end the day Dad died, though we all imagined it would. And though we missed him desperately, life continued without missing a beat.

Though his absence seemed unbearable, we remembered the prayer and understood that God had indeed granted us the desire of our hearts. He gave our father another fifteen years of life, and we were indeed grateful, but even more so with the eternal perspective that we can look forward to a joyful reunion in heaven.

And as for his children? Like our father, we're fond of bananas and we always buy bright yellow ones, never green, because you never know.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Real Housewives of the OT (Old Testament)--by Linda Kozar

For a moment, I thought I had a brilliant idea for a bible study series, so of course the first thing I did was google it to find out if someone else had experienced a similar flash of brilliance. And apparently so--but not the same flash as me. My idea? To do a series on the Real Housewives of the Bible. So imagine my surprise when I found a reality DVD series, titled "The Real Housewives of the Bible." The series follows the ups and downs of marriage as they struggle to be good wives.
But my idea was--is different. It follows the REAL housewives in the actual bible. So here goes!


"Having a baby at 90 is nothing to laugh about!
Que Sarai/Sarah!"
The Real Housewives of the OT

Genesis 11:27-32 details the genealogy of Terah, the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot, but Haran died. Abram and Nahor took wives—Abram took Sarai and Nahor married Milcah. Some commentators say Sarah was the daughter of Abraham’s brother, so therefore his niece. But in Genesis 20:12, Abram says, “But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife.”
            God speaks to Abram one day and declares a covenant with him.
Genesis 17:15
1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; 
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.3
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; 
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
            So Abram and all his house go our from the land of Ur to the land of the Canaans. They came to Haran and dwelt there.
Originally called by the name of Sarai, which means “My Princess” God later changes her name to Sarah, which means “Princess.” Changing of a name was symbolic of a binding covenant between man and God, Who promised to put an end to her barren state.
Due to a famine in the land, Abraham decided to flee to Egypt. On the journey to Egypt, Abram asks Sarai to tell the Egyptians she was his sister. (Genesis 20:12) After all, it’s the truth, right? Technically, she was his half-sister. But half-truths are still lies in the eyes of God. He cannot honor sin.
The truth is, Abram feared they would kill him and take her. In the bible, beauty is to be desired and taken (Esther). It is a foreshadow of Israel’s later bondage to Egypt. God afflicts Pharoah and his house with great plagues (Genesis 12:17). Plagues also foreshadow the manner of Israel’s redemption from the bondage of Egypt.
When brought before Pharoah, Sarai obeyed and told him Abraham was her brother. Though Sarai was 65 years old at the time, she was considered a great beauty. Smitten with her cougar-ish good looks, Pharoah gave her many gifts and honors. Most notably, he gave her the land of Goshen for her hereditary possession. It is likely she acquired her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar at this time as well. And Abram acquired a great deal of wealth and livestock. What’s with this share a wife, save a life thing going on?
Sarai was added to the harem and she knew it would not be long before the Pharoah summoned her. But God would not allow the “mother of nations” Genesis 17:15-16 to be compromised. He afflicted the Egyptians (Gen. 12:17) and Pharaoh figured out something was wrong. Abram finally confessed that Sarah was his wife. And even Pharaoh rebuked Abraham for his lie (Genesis 12:18-20).
Now in Genesis 11:30, we know that Sarai was barren; she had no child.” But Sarah remembered the promise of God to Abram that he would be the father of many nations. However, because she doubted the likelihood of her getting pregnant, she sought a fleshly solution to the problem. Imagine how she must have felt. Any woman who has gone through menopause can relate. “The old grey mare—she ain’t what she used to be!”
She had an Egyptian slave named Hagar and according to the custom of the time, she came up with a plan. 2 so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her. ”Because Sarai was unable to bear a child, she gave her maid, Hagar to Abraham that she might bear a child through her for her husband. As a result, she bore Ishmael. However, there were consequences to this plan. Sin always has consequences. Hagar becomes proud and haughty to her mistress. She no longer acknowledges or respects Sarah’s position as Abraham’s wife. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5
Genesis Chapter 181 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[p]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
The Three Visitors
 9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.
   “There, in the tent,” he said.
 10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
   Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
 13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
 15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
   But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
Abraham laughed too but God calls Sarah to task on it.
1 Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac[ai] to the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
 6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
Less than a year later, Sarah bore Isaac. Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90. Sarah blamed Abraham for the problem created by Hagar giving birth to a rival heir, but the whole thing had been her idea. It is said that during a banquet celebrating Isaac's weaning, Sarah heard Ishmael mocking Isaac and she insisted mother and child be sent away. She recognized the danger in Ishmael to the rightful heir, her son Isaac. God backs her up and tells Abraham to do what she said (Genesis 21:12). Abraham emancipates Hagar and Ishmael and sends them away as freed slaves.
Now for the biggest test in a mother’s life. Mount Moriah. . .
After the bondwoman and her son were send away, God tested Abraham. He said, “take now your son, your only son, who you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you (Genesis 22:2).
Sarah must have watched them depart. She would have kept her eyes trained on them, her loving eyes on her son, the curl of his hair, the silhouette she knew so well. Did she have the same measure of faith Abraham had? His heart was severely grieved at the thought of taking the life of his only son. But he knew that God as the giver of life. Our lives do not belong to us, they belong to the giver of life. And like Abraham, her heart was surely broken at the thought of her son dying, suffering even for a moment. 
Sarah dies at the age of 127 in Hebron. Abraham buys his first real property in the land of Israel, the Cave of Machpelah in order to bury her.
"For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. Galatians 4:21-23
 These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother...Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise...Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman."

Sarah is a wonderful example to us--of faith, of fortitude and trust in the Lord. Of course, she had her doubts as we all do. Many women who check off the age 55+ demographic box would have a hearty chuckle as well if God suddenly showed up and told them they were going to have a baby. It's not in the normal realm of possibility. But then again, neither is God. In fact, He's God of the impossible, improbably and unimaginable. You and I need to remember that. So--thank you Sarah, mother of nations. You've inspired us to believe what God says. If He says He's going to do something, you'd better believe He's going to do it."