Tag Archives: past

Matthew – Introduction

I’m making a little bit of a shift right now.  I just finished Leviticus and i decided that i needed a little bit of a break from the Torah.  I was planning on doing the entire Torah and then breaking for a couple of books of the New Testament, but i think that now is a good time to make a quick switch.

The Gospel according to Matthew is an interesting book.  Many seem to see a parallel between Mattew’s Gospel and the five books of the Torah, seeing five sets of narratives and discourse meant to build that parallel.  When looking at Matthew, it becomes pretty obvious that the book of Matthew is all about Jesus fulfilling the role of the Messiah.  We see time and again how the life of Jesus fulfills the Old Testament prophecies of who the Messiah was to be and His role and purpose.

All in all, i’m looking forward to studying this deeper and getting a better feel for what sets Matthew apart from the other gospels.  Come join me on this journey.

 

John J. Camiolo Jr.

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Leviticus 23 – Celebrate

That’s one of the things that i like about YHWH.  It’s not all just about rules and regulations.  It’s about utilizing all kinds of aspects of life.  It’s about creativity and connecting the past, to the present, to the future.  Worship is not just about sacrifices and burnt offerings.  It’s also about bringing something before God that you are to consume in his presence.  It’s about festivals and rest as well.

There are a number of festivals that are to be celebrated throughout the year; the Passover, Pentacost, the feast of weeks, the feast of booths, etc.  They all have meanings and important interpretations.  For instance, passover is a celebration of freedom from bondage and slavery under the Egyptians.  It is a celebration of new life and hope.  It is a celebration of freedom.  Meanwhile, the feast of booths is a week long celebration in which the first day is a day of rest and the only work that can be done is the building of small booths made of the branches, boughs, and fronds of trees.  It is a celebration as a reminder of the Israelite’s time in the wilderness where they had to rely on God for protection and provision.  It is a time of blessing.  The feast of booths begins and ends with a day of rest to the LORD.  I mean honestly, how many religions do you know that celebrate rest?

Are we taking seriously what YHWH has done for us?  Do we make it a point to remember and celebrate together the ways that He has brought health and healing to our lives?  Do we remind one another and celebrate together His work and purpose in and through us?  How can we do this more?

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Exodus 27 – The Court

The plans are in place!  The blueprints are being written up.  The details are set.  Life as we know it is changing.  There are three constants in the world: Death, Taxes, and Change.  The people of Israel are used to living surrounded by other gods.  Gods of the Egyptians, gods of the Canaanites, and the gods of everyone in between.  All of these other gods have temples and alters and rules of worship, but the Israelites seem to not have anything that they can use to identify with their God.  The God of the Israelites doesn’t want statues to be made of Him.  He hides His name from them.  They have no established alter or temple to bring sacrifices to.  How do you connect with a God like that?

Well, that’s all changing.  God has just given Moses the plans for the tabernacle, and is now giving him the plans and blueprints for the alter and courtyard as well.  The people of Israel are well on their way to having a place and way to worship that is all their own.  No more having to watch all of these other nations and people worship their gods in all their ways, and not to be able to show their devotion to the God of their fathers.  Finally, there is a more complete identity in what it means to be an Israelite and to serve their own God.  The people of Israel are starting to become a more cohesive unit with all that YHWH has done for them, and now a way for the circle to be completed… a place to honor and serve Him in return.  They are finally able to fulfill their lives and purpose.

We sometimes lose sight of the fact that we have been place on this planet and in this world for a purpose outside of ourselves.  Our culture attempts to push us to accept that we are here to serve ourselves, and that other people are here for me.  But the reality is that we are here to serve Him.  When we are not serving Him, or worshiping Him in what we do and say, we will always have a sense of loss… of being incomplete.  It’s only in honoring and worshiping God in our lives, actions, and words that we are able to be complete in who we are.  These ancient civilizations had so much of a better grasp of these concepts than we do.  We are continually trying to rebel from what some would call “oppression”, but what is in reality a core part of who we are…  To serve a greater God.  And now, with the plans in place, the Israelites are finally going to get what they need.  A place and way to serve the one true God, the alter and court of the tabernacle.

 

John J. Camiolo Jr.

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Exodus 21 – Treatment of Others

Yesterday was on the 10 commandments and the Israelite’s reaction to God, so i don’t know what i expected for chapter 21, but it certainly wasn’t this.  To put things in perspective a little bit; there were originally no chapters and verse in the scriptures.  They were added later on to help people study and reference the Bible better.  As a result when the text was originally written, there was no real division between what was commanded in 20 and then in 21.  So, God gave the people the 10 commandments / promises, then almost immediately we get into the topic that opens chapter 21: slavery!

Now i know that back in the day both supporters of and those opposed to slavery used the Bible to prove their point of view.  Ultimately though, it was those who understood that God’s view of humanity being created in His image and his redemption bringing equality to all that overcame and was a driving force in especially Great Britain’s move to make slavery illegal.  But when i started copying this chapter over it hit me.  Almost immediately after giving the 10 commandments / promises God begins the rest of the law and legal instructions with rules about slavery?  Isn’t that a huge piece of evidence that God is in SUPPORT of slavery?  Doesn’t that justify that abominable practice?

I was really struggling through this idea and concept for a good chunk of my writing this morning.  It was really bothering me.  Then, as i was writing, struggling with this, and questioning God about it; He brought an answer to my mind.  It’s not that He supported slavery.  It’s that He knew slavery was going to occur no matter what.  He set His 10 primary promises / commands then immediately He set the rules to protect those who would end up as slaves.  It wasn’t an attempt to encourage the mistreatment of His creation.  It was making it a priority to protect those least able to protect themselves.

The chapter continues by dealing with how to respond to murder / accidental deaths from other people as well as animals.  Obviously this is a very important aspect of the law to deal with.  This theme of protecting the innocent continues with the instruction that if two men are fighting and a pregnant woman is struck resulting in premature birth but no harm is done, then the husband may demand any fine he requests.  If there is an injury it is an eye for eye, tooth for tooth, burn for burn, hand for hand, etc.

If we call ourselves Christians, are we protecting those less able to protect themselves?  Do we live our lives taking responsibility for those around us?

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Exodus 6 – YHWH

I am so glad that I do not have to do God’s work for Him.  I am so glad that all He requires of me is obedience.  I don’t think that i could handle the stress of the work that God does… that certainly is a silly statement isn’t it.  The point is, God was the one who did the work of hardening and softening Pharaoh’s heart.  God is the one who did the miracles in Pharaoh’s presence.  God is the one who fulfilled His promises to the people of Israel.  It wasn’t Moses, it had to be God, Himself.

There have been times in my life where God has told me what He was going to do in my life, and then i have attempted to make it happen on my own.  One guess as to the result… yup!  I failed miserably!  Months later, God did it.  You would think that after that i would learn my lesson.  Nope, i continue trying to do YHWH’s work for Him.

One thing i did want to make sure that i touch on is vs. 2-3 “God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them.”  The word LORD is the Hebrew word יהוה which is JHWH / YHWH / JHVH / YHVH.   This includes only consonants.  Traditionally, with vowels this word has been pronounced as Jehovah.  However, as time has gone by, there has been mounting evidence that there is a mix of words here.  It is believed that while the consonants are natural to the word, the vowels are not.  The vowels come from Adonai (אֲדֹנָי) meaning “my lord” making יהוה (YHVH) into יְהֹוָה (Yehovah).  The concept here is that in the 10 commandments YHWH says not to use His name in vain.  As such the priests who would read the law to the people would protect them from using His name in vain by not even saying the revered name of God out loud to them.  So whenever they came to the word YHWH, the priests would say Adonai instead.  As a result, over the millennia the true vowels to the name YHWH were lost.

Some would say that that is not the case, that those vowels are actually the correct vowels for the name, but even with a very limited understanding of the history and tendencies of the Israelite people and the legalism of the Pharisees of Jesus time, i’m much more inclined to go with the vast majority of scholars and say YHWH.

Either way, i find it interesting that YHWH first tells His true name not to Abraham, Isaac, & Israel, but rather to Moses and His people in Egypt.

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Exodus 1 – Purpose?

Today has just started as one of those days.  I got up, got my chapter done, and in a short 21 verse chapter i just could not stay awake.  It took me quite a bit longer than it should have.  Afterwards i immediately went back to bed and crashed… hard.  This project can be a real struggle sometimes.  I love it, and i love doing it, but on days like today i just want to quit.  I wonder if it’s really worth getting up two hours early to get the chapter copied over and the post written?

Add to that the fact that i am a man in my early 30’s and i feel like i have accomplished nothing in my life.  That’s at least a third of my life gone, with what feels like nothing to show for it.

Then i look at this passage, and i wonder.  Joseph was a man who did what God called him to do.  He put all this work, time, and effort into being the man of God that was needed for the time.  God spent all that time prepping him, and he worked so hard for Pharaoh.  He perhaps single handedly (with God’s direction) saved the lands of Egypt and Canaan from a major drought that would have left the land barren and the people starved to death.

He did all this, and “(n)ow a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.”  This new king owed everything he owned to Joseph, but that didn’t matter.  Joseph struggled, worked, and toiled all his life, helped Egypt to grow in prosperity and strength, and it doesn’t matter.  The king saw all of the Israelites in the land and decided that that was going to be his target.  Joseph’s work and all that he did didn’t mean a thing to this Pharaoh.

I struggle with this because, if all that Joseph did ceases to matter, and he, with God’s direction, did some amazing things, how much more I.  Do i even matter?  Does anything that i could accomplish really matter?  I’ve gotten this far into my life, and it feels like i have accomplished little of real value, but even if i did, does it really matter?  Fifty years after my death, will anyone even remember me or what i have done?  If they do, will they even care?

 

John Camiolo

P.S.  I know, i know.  Many of you will point out that what Joseph did did matter.  After all, we know Joseph’s story, and it was all a part of God’s much bigger plan.  Also some will say that it’s not about our credit here, but we are storing up treasures in heaven…  I understand these concepts and more, but there are times when the facts get buried in how we feel.  And that’s where i’m at today.

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Exodus – Introduction

It’s amazing to me  to consider that Genesis is done.  I have made a personal copy of one of the most powerful and influential books ever written.  All 50 chapters word-for-word.  Now we enter a new era.  It is a time of re-revelation; a time of hope, struggle, inspiration, and new life (revival).

Four-Hundred years have passed since the close of Genesis.  The Israelites have gone from blessed and honored guests to mistreated and abused slaves.  The Pharaoh who knew and loved Joseph and insisted that the Israelites had to stay there has long since died and been forgotten.  Since then the Egyptians have become concerned with how blessed the Israelites have been, and how quickly they are growing.

The Israelites are here residing on their land and overrunning them like rats in the sewer.  The Egyptians realize that if they don’t do something about this “Hebrew problem” soon, it’ll be too late.  So a “wise” Pharaoh decides that it’s time to turn the table on these Israelite invaders.  He begins by hiring them.  He uses them for cheap labor.  Pharaoh even goes down to help work in the trenches.  He takes his clean robe off and becomes one of the men; doing the work of the masses.

However, what has started out as hard work for a decent wage becomes sweatshop work, then eventually slavery under whips and cruel taskmasters.  The Israelites are toiling and dying under the abuse and under the expectation of their daily quota.  So, they begin crying out for help from the God of their fathers.

This is the God that they know only from their history; the stories passed down of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob / Israel and their covenants with Him.  The Israelites are surrounded by the many gods of the Egyptians, each one with a name, a face, and a purpose.  Yet their God seems to have none of those things.  Yet in order to worship Him properly, the Israelites need to know these things.  Is He one of the gods of the Egyptians?  How about one of the Baals from a neighboring nation?  Maybe he’s Moloch of the Ammonites?

How do you serve a God that you do not know?  How do you cry out to Him?  How do you appease Him when He is angry at you for some unknown transgression and therefore allowing you to be mistreated, beaten, and killed, and He doesn’t appear to be doing anything about it?  What do you do!?!

That’s the backdrop of this book.  The Israelites don’t realize that this is part of a plan much bigger than they are.  A plan with a story that is about to play out for all of history to see.  Their Exodus is about to begin…

In the meantime, what does this say about us?  How are we treating those who are sojourning in our land?  …those who have left their homes due to famine, troubles, and a desire for a better life?  Do we treat them with contempt because they don’t speak very good English?  Do we kick  them out and tell them “We don’t want your kind here”?  Do we put them into sweatshops, one step above slavery; sometimes not even a step above?  Do we fear  them like the Egyptians did, or do we embrace them?  What is God’s plan?

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Genesis 43 – Returns

Joseph’s brothers need to return to get food / sustenance, but boy is it a chore.  They know what they have been told by Joseph.  They cannot return to Egypt without their youngest brother.  They also know that their father is not going to let Benjamin go without a fight.  So  the argument ensues.  Jacob / Israel wails and moans that if they take Benjamin he will lose a second son.  They remind him that if he doesn’t let Benjamin go, they will not be able to buy food.  Jacob complains that they are trying to send him to an early grave.  They remind him that if he does not let them go, he, they, and all the grandchildren will dis as well.  Judah takes full responsibility for Benjamin’s health and safety.  So Jacob / Israel finally consents.

So they return with not only Benjamin, but the money from the first trip that they found in their bags on the return home.  When they return to Egypt Joseph arranges for them to eat with him.  They are worried about the money, but Joseph’s intent is only to eat with them and see how they respond.  In the process, Joseph has the table set up youngest to oldest, to their surprise.

How about us?  How often does God do the same thing.  He wants to sup with us.  He wants to spend time with us.  He wants relationship with us.  What is our focus?  We focus on what we want, or what we are afraid of, or what we have done wrong.  We allow those things to prevent us from having a blessed celebration with our Father.  All He wants is for us to return to Him, and we are still afraid that He might find out about something that we are ashamed of.

Is that where you’re at today?  Are you missing out on an amazing relationship with the LORD because you are afraid of His response to something that happened in the past.  Well, get over it; “Stop it!”

And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain– for He says,”AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU,
AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU.”
Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION”– (II Corinthians 6:1-2 NASB)

John

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Genesis 10 – Foundations

This is a chapter of foundations.  After the flood, as each generation led the way to the next, there came a desire to protect and define each family.  Cities and nations were built.  Sons became fathers who had sons who became fathers who had sons…  Some of these lines, families, and names were significant.  Others were not.  There were people who are defined by nothing more than a name.  Others had legends and legacies that they left behind.

Many of the names i had to struggle to pronounce, but there were some that i knew well.  It’s funny because as i was going through these lists of name and legacies and as i picked out those i recognized i began to realize something.  Every name that i recognized, i recognized for the bad or evil that they did.  I saw the Canaanites who lost their land to the Israelites because they were vomited out due to their own corruption and sins.  The Philistines were enemies of the sons of Abraham for generation after generation.  Nineveh was the capitol of the Assyrian empire which would eventually come through and destroy Israel.  And of course Sodom and Gomorrah would be two cities destroyed by God in Abraham’s time due to their sin and corruption.  They were so corrupt that we get the word sodomy from the name of the city of Sodom.

While there are many names and many people who started out on the right path with the right intentions and purposes, instead of holding to the true God that saved them in the flood, they pursued their own courses instead of God’s and they were overcome by their sins.

So that poses a question to think about.  What prevents us, our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren, and on and on from the same fate?  How do we insure that we don’t become the next Nineveh?  Can we?  Is it even possible to do?

In all honesty (to be brutally honest) i don’t know as that we can.  I thing that the only things we can do are 1) to pursue God and 2) to lay the right foundation.  Even then, there is no real guarantee that our children will pursue Him as well.  Look at the lives of Samuel and David.  Samuel found favor in God’s sight.  He did what God called of him even when his mentor / adoptive father’s own children would not follow God.  King David had the same problem.  Even Solomon turned away from God and the nation was torn apart in the time of Solomon’s son (David’s grandson).

Does that mean that there is no hope and that what we do doesn’t matter?  Of course not!  Just look at Boaz (Ruth).  He was a righteous man who did what was right in God’s sight.  He became the great-grandfather of King David.  It was from the line of David that Christ was born.  Paul took in Timothy and trained him.

We must do two things.  We must pursue God, and we MUST lay the foundation necessary for future generations.  We cannot guarantee that our children and grandchildren will make the right choices, but we MUST give them a foundation that will encourage them to pursue God… not on their own terms, but on His.

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Genesis 7 – Loss

Well, i know that God is working in me through this project.  I have said previously that by going through the Bible this way i am getting a much more intimate picture.  The lives and people become more personal.  The situations and lives have gone from stories of history, to a history of people.  Well, that has not been more clear than here in chapter 7.

I started today waking up with the song “Take Me In” by Kutless running through my head.  So i was singing it as i went down to the basement to start working on chapter 7.  I opened my Bible and journal, looked at vs. 1, and started crying. “Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Enter the ark, you and all your household…”  I knew what was coming, and i just couldn’t handle it.

Now to put this into perspective; I remember where i was the day that the Oklahoma city bombing occurred.  I was at a friend’s house.  It was someone i hadn’t seen in years.  His mom turned on the TV, and it was all over the news.  My reaction was, “Oh great, that means that this is going to be  all over the news all day.”  Not a tear shed; more annoyance about the life interruption than anything else.  I didn’t understand why everyone was getting so worked up about things.  And sure enough the drama went on for days and weeks.

Then September 11, 2001 occurred.  I was in class working towards my Masters in Counseling when the news hit.  It seemed like all these people all around me were crying and upset.  The loss of life affected them, but not the same way as with me.  I was shocked and upset about what was happening, but i was more fascinated with seeing the whole event unfold.  I kept wanting to see before and after comparison pictures to see the extent of the damage.  The loss of human life was not as much of an issue for me.

Now with that background, i come into this chapter.  I’ve read this chapter more times than i can remember.  I’ve heard the story in Sunday School and classes even more than that.  It has always been just a story to me.  …A story with important historical and theological implications.  Today though, it was something completely different.  It was no longer just some story.  Those people, those lives, have become important.  Seeing all the energy, all the effort, all the work that has gone into these lives.  Not just the people, but the animals and the plant-life.  Those people have become my people.  It’s like i’ve watched them grow up.  I’ve seen their dreams, joys, failures, children, and grandchildren.  I’ve seen them live, love, lose, and find redemption.  I’ve been there as man loses his home and he comforts his wife.  I’ve seen children born, destroy their lives, and continue feeding that through the generations.  I’ve seen new hope born.  I’ve seen generation after generation consume themselves more and more with their anger and selfishness.

I understand WHY it needs to happen, but i’m crushed that it DOES.  “Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Enter the ark, you and all your household…”  I knew what was coming, and i just couldn’t handle it.  How must it have been for Noah and his family?  How hard was it for them knowing that all that they knew and cared for was about to be destroyed.  How much more for God, who had created and cared so lovingly for.  This wasn’t just some trivial matter.  This was a necessary revulsion of all of the corruption  that was acting as a cancer that was destroying the world.  It was all the hard work and effort.  It was all the hope dreams and lives, gone.  I started crying.  (You can ask my wife, that’s not something that happens very often.)

Then it’s almost like my eyes were drawn straight down to verse 16 “Those that entered,… entered as God had commanded him; and the Lord closed it behind him.”  At that point the crying turned into weeping and i had to turn away.  This is something that God HAD to do personally.  He HAD to set it into motion Himself.  The work of His hands, the man created in His image, the birds, the cattle, even the creeping things, all of it.  A necessary and total loss… except for that one hope that floated along in that little boat.

It took me about 10 minutes and some serious toughing up to get to the point where i could pick up my pen and start writing.  Needless to say, this project is completely changing the way i view the scriptures, and the world around me.

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