Rainbow Reminders

Isaiah 54:8-10 ESV
In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord, your Redeemer. “This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 43:2 ESV
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

John 16:33 ESV
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Bells and Pomegranates

Our scripture today comes from Exodus 28:33-34:

And upon its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet, all around its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe all around.
Exodus 28:33‭-‬34 NKJV

And our study, even though titled “Bells and Pomegranates” might just as easily be called:

Sound Doctrine & Fruitful Life

Charles Spurgeon, in his “Lectures to My Students” (worth buying on Amazon if you like paper books, or Google Play Books if you are not old fashioned like me) — anyways, old Charlie Spurgeon, who was a Baptist preacher back in the 1800s in London (who is today called by many the “Prince of Preachers”) — old Charlie had this to say of our scripture that we are looking at today:

“The priest was to have in his robes bells and pomegranates; the one a figure of sound doctrine, and the other of a fruitful life.” – Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students

Now if you wanted to save time and just trust anything at all that I or Charles Spurgeon shared as being “unquestionably the gospel truth”, you could blindly agree (against my recommendations), and just skip ahead. But I know that you may rightly wonder if that’s just some fanciful thing that some old Baptist preacher came up with — out of left field — with no Biblical basis — that was just some esoteric opinion — that he “read into” the scripture — to make for “smart sermon clickbait”.

And I hope that we are good students of the Word who will test every spirit, against our canonical set of writings as Christians — namely the infallible and inerrant Word of God, the Holy Bible.

So first, let’s lay the groundwork for what we are talking about.

What are…

Bells

Wikipedia would tell us that:

A bell is a directly struck idiophone percussion instrument. Most bells have the shape of a hollow cup that when struck vibrates in a single strong strike tone, with its sides forming an efficient resonator. The strike may be made by an internal “clapper” or “uvula”, an external hammer, or—in small bells—by a small loose sphere enclosed within the body of the bell (jingle bell).
Bells are usually cast from bell metal (a type of bronze) for its resonant properties, but can also be made from other hard materials; this depends on the function. Some small bells such as ornamental bells or cow bells can be made from cast or pressed metal, glass or ceramic, but large bells such as church, clock and tower bells are normally cast from bell metal.

And Easton’s Bible Dictionary says:

The bells first mentioned in Scripture are the small golden bells attached to the hem of the high priest’s ephod ( Exodus 28:33 Exodus 28:34 Exodus 28:35 ). The “bells of the horses” mentioned by ( Zechariah 14:20 ) were attached to the bridles or belts round the necks of horses trained for war, so as to accustom them to noise and tumult.

Ok, so what are…

Pomegranates

Nelson’s Compact Bible Dictionary tells us that:

A “pomegranate is a round, sweet fruit about inches across with a hard rind. It is green when young and turns red when ripe. There are numerous edible seeds within the pomegranate… The hem of Aaron’s robe was decorated with images of pomegranates (Ex. 28:33-34, 39:24-26), it was listed among the pleasant fruit of Egypt (Num. 20:5). Solomon decorated the temple with the likeness of the pomegranate (1 King 7:18, 20). A spiced wine was made from the juice (Song 8:2).”

Let’s read some quick background on our scripture in…

Bible Commentaries on Exodus 28:33-34

“around the hem of the ephod was these, were these little golden bells and then a pomegranate… all around the hem. The purpose was that when he went into the Holy of Holies, no one could go in there except the high priest, but coming into the presence of God was really a hazardous job. When the whole thing first got started they realized what a hazardous occupation they’d gotten into as priests.

The very first day that they started their ministry as priests, two of them got wiped out. Nadab and Abihu both got wiped out the very first day. Because when they got the whole thing set up, and they got the altar all set, and the wood on the altar, fire came down from heaven, and the wood just spontaneously started to burn. Aaron’s two sons got so excited they grabbed their little incense burners, and they took… the incense burners, but it took strange fire, and they went in to offer it before God and the fire came from the altar and consumed the two sons of Aaron. It was a dangerous, hazardous job. You’re coming into the presence of God, and you better make sure that everything is right; if it isn’t, you’ve had it.

Now even the high priest in coming in
before God, coming into the presence of
God, everything had to be just right, if it
wasn’t the high priest would get wiped out. How would they know? The bells would quit ringing. So that was the purpose of the little bells. They would tie a rope on his foot, and if the bells would quit ringing they’d take and drag him out. Occupational hazard.

So that was the purpose of the little golden bells around the hem… that when he was ministering before God, in the actual going into this area of coming into that area where God’s presence was to meet the people, things had to be right, or it could mean the life of the high priest. So the golden bells so that they would know in case he died.” Chuck Smith, C2000 Series on Exodus

“Bells of gold between them all
around: On its hem, between the
ornate pomegranates of blue and
purple, were bells, so the priest
could be heard while ministering
before God – if he were to die, the
bells would stop ringing and he
could be pulled out of the Most Holy
Place. The sound ofthe bells would
remind the priest of the solemn
nature of his work, and remind him
so that he may not die.” – David Guzik

“The tinkling bells were
presumably so that the people
outside could trace the
movements of the priest within,
who was of course invisible to
them. By this they would know
that his offering had been
accepted, and that he had not
been struck dead.” (Cole)

“The pomegranates (symbols of
fruitfulness) were either hanging
as ‘bobbles’ between the bells, or
else embroidered on the fabric.”
(Cole)

“The alternating bell and
pomegranate on the skirts ofthe
priest’s robe were typical of his
obligation to testimony and fruit
bearing.” (Morgan)

“Round the skirts of the robe were hung golden bells, and the representations of pomegranates made of yarn of divers colours. The pomegranates added to the beauty of the robe, and the sound of the bells gave notice to the people in the outer court when he went into the holy place to burn incense, that they might then apply themselves to their devotions at the same time (Lu. 1:10), in token of their concurrence with him in his offering, and their hopes of the ascent of their prayers to God in virtue of the incense he offered.
Aaron must come near to minister in the garments that were appointed him, that he die not. It is at his peril if he attend otherwise than according to the institution.

This intimates that we must serve the Lord with fear and holy trembling, as those that know we deserve to die, and are in danger of making some fatal mistake. Some make the bells of the holy robe to typify the sound of the gospel of Christ in the world, giving
notice of his entrance within the veil for us.
Blessed are those that hear this joyful sound (Ps. 89:15). The adding of the pomegranates, which are a fragrant fruit, denotes the sweet savour of the gospel, as well as the joyful sound of it, for it is a savour of life unto life.

The church is called an orchard of
pomegranates.” – Matthew Henry, Commentary

Illustration

Charles Spurgeon continues to expound upon these reflections upon Sound Doctrine and Fruitful in his “Lectures to My Students”:

Liars

In a discussion about God hating liars (Proverbs 6:17, Proverbs 6:19, Proverbs 12:22), the following question came up:

My discussion went along these lines:

“Do you know what a parable is?”

“If one man generates a tale from imaginary characters in order to demonstrate and teach a valuable truth, while another man uses truthful facts to manipulate another to unknowingly participate in a lie, who is the wicked man? Is this not clear?”

“A liar could never speak a fact that is untrue, yet still be a liar through and through because he is deceitful in his dealings, while meticulous in his facts.”

Unfortunately, in this instance, the man wasn’t asking so that we could speak and reason together, but he just wanted to mock God and mock my beliefs in the midst of our discussion. And he saw my questions as insulting and we couldn’t communicate with each other at all. I didn’t even know we were “arguing” initially, I just thought we were talking and asking questions to consider together. Thankfully, a friend revealed to me that it was arguing, so I apologized and departed. No sense debating over words with someone looking for a fight — you aren’t going to change their mind when they aren’t even listening but agree just waiting for their turn to speak.

Let’s not miss seeing the forest for the trees, and let’s not mince words so finely for the sake of finding someone to argue with over things that might be simple enough for a young child to understand.

I really enjoyed looking at this parable from Jesus immediately following this discussion. A parable, that while revealing a truth about “unclean foods”, and also mentioning “deceit” defiling a man, speaks back to instructions given to Israel in Leviticus about this very topic.

Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart. ” Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.) And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”
Mark 7:14‭-‬15‭, ‬17‭-‬23 NLT

And this is what was given in Leviticus:

“Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. “Of all the land animals, these are the ones you may use for food. You may eat any animal that has completely split hooves and chews the cud. You may not, however, eat the following animals that have split hooves or that chew the cud, but not both. The camel chews the cud but does not have split hooves, so it is ceremonially unclean for you. The hyrax chews the cud but does not have split hooves, so it is unclean. The hare chews the cud but does not have split hooves, so it is unclean. The pig has evenly split hooves but does not chew the cud, so it is unclean. You may not eat the meat of these animals or even touch their carcasses. They are ceremonially unclean for you. “Of all the marine animals, these are ones you may use for food. You may eat anything from the water if it has both fins and scales, whether taken from salt water or from streams. But you must never eat animals from the sea or from rivers that do not have both fins and scales. They are detestable to you. This applies both to little creatures that live in shallow water and to all creatures that live in deep water. They will always be detestable to you. You must never eat their meat or even touch their dead bodies. Any marine animal that does not have both fins and scales is detestable to you. “These are the birds that are detestable to you. You must never eat them: the griffon vulture, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, the kite, falcons of all kinds, ravens of all kinds, the eagle owl, the short-eared owl, the seagull, hawks of all kinds, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the barn owl, the desert owl, the Egyptian vulture, the stork, herons of all kinds, the hoopoe, and the bat. “You must not eat winged insects that walk along the ground; they are detestable to you. You may, however, eat winged insects that walk along the ground and have jointed legs so they can jump. The insects you are permitted to eat include all kinds of locusts, bald locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers. All other winged insects that walk along the ground are detestable to you.
Leviticus 11:2‭-‬23 NLT

For someone only seeking to mince words, they might abandon these two passages as irreconcilable.

For someone insistent upon measuring and comparing and debating such things, they will find much of what Jesus teaches to be a stumbling block.

But can you step back from this and see the forest, not just the individual trees — even more importantly, can you see our utter and complete need for God?

Can you shift your perspective from being about what “I” or “they” are doing to be about what He has done? This is the ONLY way you will find yourself at His feet, clearly understanding such things. He is the ONE TRUTH, ONE WAY, ONE LIFE. Amen.

Crave

What does it mean to “crave” something?

When we are talking about the topic of likes, wants, needs, and desires — craving is at the extreme end of the spectrum.

When speaking of “craving” something and I look over my own life — I can see times when I “craved” a lot of things that weren’t necessarily good or healthy for me, but that I was drawn to them so powerfully that I might accept unnecessary risks in order to enjoy those things that I was craving. Cravings for things like sex, food, partying — even professional and social recognition — have at times had me chasing cheap, short term comforts and satisfactions at the risk of more costly long term consequences.

I don’t say this to self denigrate or deprecate — but so that we might consider and agree to the “intensity” that is understood in the word “crave”. And I believe that even a small child watching Sesame Street can appreciate this shared experience of what it means to “crave” something, as they watch Cookie Monster saying, “Me want cookie! Me eat cookie!” and lose control of himself attacking the cookies with a voracious “Nom, nom, nom.”

Now you might believe that from what I’ve written so far, that I’m going to tell you about the “dangers of excess” and that “craving” is bad — as if the key to self improvement is to learn to cage your inner cookie monster and become a good (miserable on the inside, but smiling on the outside) vegan instead. But no, there is a lot of impetus and power and motion that “craving” can bring to our lives. We aren’t just looking for a blandly extended lifeline in this discussion — or encouraging a life built around “no, no, no”, “don’t do that”, “don’t eat that”, etc.

What if we could crave things that were good and healthy and best for our lives instead of craving those other things?

Madness, you say? How can one change his basest and oldest desires and cravings, and trade them in, like an old book at the library, for another?

Haven’t we felt like those innermost desires, needs, “cravings” almost defined “who we really are”, even if we’ve been self controlled enough to “hide them from the world around us” — don’t we know ourselves and who we would be “unchecked, wild, running free”?

—–

At this point, I have to share something ultimately important with you. That yes, those deep down cravings are part of what defines “you” — whether you have those current cravings as a result of your nature, your nurture, or consequences of your own decisions, you only have two options for addressing those cravings. Either you alone have to attempt to control them, or you need help from something outside yourself. And self-control of lower intensity items that are likes, wants, even needs is not quite the same as trying to put out the roaring fire of something that truly is a “craving”.

For me, there were “cravings” that went beyond mere self help books and beyond simply rationally arguing between an angel on one shoulder and devil on the other. Have you ever truly experienced the power and intensity of an unhealthy craving? It seems to have a life and power and influence of its own, beyond your own policing powers, and smarter and more wily than your best prison warden efforts can keep caged.

For me, it would have been nice for many of my unhealthy likes, wants, and desires to be changed to something healthy — but my unhealthy “cravings”, it seems that they HAD TO BE, or it seems that I might have eventually destroyed myself through risks and consequences far too costly to bear.

Luckily for me, I met this man who told me that I could be “born again”, that I could become a “new creation”, that I could be given “a new heart” with”new desires” and in a leap of faith, I said “Yes, I would rather have that. Take that old me, and give me something that looks more like you, Jesus.”

This has to be shared, because without that newness of life being explained and offered to you as well, how could I share this next information without it seeming like I’m telling you to police, cage, and hide the real you to just hypocritically act on the outside as if your “cravings” aware healthy instead of unhealthy?

If you know my Jesus, if you have truly given up on who you were to wholeheartedly abandon the old to see the new revealed in you — please continue reading in the midst of that understanding, that call, to be like little children at His feet.

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
1 Peter 2:2‭-‬3 NLT

Life Application Study Bible
One characteristic all children share is that they want to grow up-to be like big brother or like sister or like their parents. When we are born again, we become spiritual newborn babies. If we are healthy, we will yearn to grow. How sad it is that some people never grow up. The need for milk is a natural instinct for a baby, and it signals the desire for nourishment that will lead to growth. Once we see our need for God’s Word and begin to find nourishment in Christ, our spiritual appetite will increase, and we will start to mature. How strong is your desire for God’s Word?

Handling Insults

I like these two things to think about:

1) Allowing someone to offend you to the point of anger is handing over your joy and happiness to someone else — it is like surrendering the power of your own mindset into their control. A thoughtful and wise person sees insults as a foolish attempt by another to manipulate and control their emotions, and denies them the opportunity by ignoring the insult.

Proverbs 12:16 ESV
The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.

2) Insults, bitterness, contention, and drama rise up from miserable people like a cancer, looking for someone to share the sickness and spread. Instead of letting them suck you into their misery — offer the exact opposite of what they were seeking to provoke in you. Offer them forgiveness, not because they deserve it, but because it makes it absolutely clear to them that you are free from their influence and control, and because they just might see their own misery and bitterness and want to finally let go of it for something better.

Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Christ went to the cross absolutely innocent and did not see the need to “defend himself”. So that’s a great example that he has given us. And Paul even said things like “bless those who curse you” and “if you only do good to those who do good to you, how are you any different than the world”. We see that even criminals do good in return to those who are good to them. But we are called to love and pray for our enemies.

We are not called to “defend our own honour” because we are told that there is nothing good in us apart from Christ. Any feelings of having to defend our honor is actually us hanging onto our own pride of life, when we are called to die to self daily. If we know that we are not honorable, but that “only God is good”, then we won’t insist on others honoring or glorifying us — in fact, we don’t expect or demand it, because all the honor and glory is due to God alone.

Is this a radical and narrow path? Yes. But when we consider how freeing it is, we’ll find that it is a much lighter burden than holding a grudge, demanding respect, arguing senselessly, etc.

Sing!

Your day will have a message to those around you each day. What will you let take up residence in your attitude, your thoughts, your words, your work TODAY? What will your presence and example teach and demonstrate within your workplace, your home, your cycle of influence? Someone is watching, and someone is following. Whether we realize it or not, we are leading and influencing those around us. Will we live today intentionally and with a purpose? Will we sing a song and advertise something meaningful and useful today?

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Matthew 5:13‭-‬16 NLT
https://bible.com/bible/116/mat.5.13-16.NLT

Link to original: https://www.smule.com/p/796834962_2024789871

Link to original:

https://www.smule.com/p/151821080_2251795841

So thankful for the opportunity to worship with my dear friend Kimberly Earp Dunn on these songs. Check out her YouTube channel here:

https://www.youtube.com/user/vkdunn95

What seems sweet can be bitter poison

My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen carefully to my wise counsel. Then you will show discernment, and your lips will express what you’ve learned. For the lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil. But in the end she is as bitter as poison, as dangerous as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. For she cares nothing about the path to life. She staggers down a crooked trail and doesn’t realize it. So now, my sons, listen to me. Never stray from what I am about to say: Stay away from her! Don’t go near the door of her house! If you do, you will lose your honor and will lose to merciless people all you have achieved. Strangers will consume your wealth, and someone else will enjoy the fruit of your labor. In the end you will groan in anguish when disease consumes your body. You will say, “How I hated discipline! If only I had not ignored all the warnings! Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers? Why didn’t I pay attention to my instructors? I have come to the brink of utter ruin, and now I must face public disgrace.” Drink water from your own well— share your love only with your wife. Why spill the water of your springs in the streets, having sex with just anyone? You should reserve it for yourselves. Never share it with strangers. Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love. Why be captivated, my son, by an immoral woman, or fondle the breasts of a promiscuous woman? For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes. An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his great foolishness.
Proverbs 5:1‭-‬23 NLT
https://bible.com/bible/116/pro.5.1-23.NLT