Our youth leader returned this week from a conference in Turkey with leaders from all over the Middle East. He reported that the Egyptians are very excited about what is happening in their country. They believe that the time for change has finally come. All over the Middle East the people are crying for freedom.
I am reminded of the wisdom of Solomon who said in Proverbs 29: 2 that “when the wicked man rules, the people groan.” It was only a matter of time before the peoples of the Middle East rose up in order to cast off the chains of censorship, deceit and violence imposed on them by corrupted leaders.
Many people are not aware of the total control the Middle East strong men have over their people. In order to keep their grip on the public, these regimes hold absolute control over the news. In countries like Egypt, journalists are prohibited from publishing anything that the government does not agree with. They cannot even report on or discuss the government leader’s health. They are not allowed to discuss industrial accidents, natural disasters or the prevalence of Avian influenza without government approval. Newspapers in Egypt are scrutinized by government appointed censors for every paper published before it hits the streets.
None of these countries are interested in protecting freedom of speech.
People cannot even speak openly about how they think about their country, its leaders or policy. When foreign journalists visit these countries, it is always with a government or military escort. These journalists must then report back to the government on what they want to write before it is published. This is what is so exciting for the people of Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and around the Middle East. They are shouting their complaints on the city streets.
It seems that the new technologies are presenting a real challenge to the Middle East. Mobile phones and internet access are making it more and more difficult to control the news. It is practically impossible to block all mobile telephone and internet communications though they have tried.
Video-sharing and social networking websites are all victims of Middle East government censors, although China is the leader in this field. China regularly shuts down services to prevent people from speaking out. In the Middle East nations were apparently caught unprepared by the technology, but also at just how unhappy their people are. It is amazing to me to now hear about the opposition and anger at Middle East government policies that has been silenced for decades.
Clearly modern technology is making it more and more difficult to control or censor the news. Perhaps the day has arrived when corrupt governments, fascist leaders and violent terror groups fear exposure from the wide-spread use of digital media. In today’s world, anyone with a mobile phone in his pocket is a potential reporter.
I stand in awe at the courage and resolve of our Middle East neighbors to bring change to their nations. In Egypt, Libya and all across the Middle East the people are so fed up with their corrupt leaders they are willing to die to make a change. I can certainly identify with them. I salute them.
Many in the West are concerned that even more radical groups will fill in the gap left by these revolutions and take over the country. God only knows. In the meantime the people are rising up against the corrupt and evil leadership. They want better lives, not more terror. This is what the people in these nations are crying out for and this is what they told our youth leader. We should all stand with them in prayer and support in their battle for change.
The Sign of Jonah? This past summer a 13 meter (43 foot) whale appeared in Jaffa. Marine biologists were stunned when the Great Grey was spotted just a kilometer off the Jaffa coast. "This kind of whale is thousands of miles away from where it should be," saidDr Aviad Scheinin of the Israel Marine Mammal Research & Assistance Center.
Normally the Grey whale lives in the eastern Pacific, migrating between the waters of Alaska to Baja, California. Experts are only guessing, but they think that the melting ice in the North West Passage through the Arctic Sea allowed the whale to turn south down the eastern side of the North Atlantic and from there through the Straights of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean.
The next time someone snickers about the story of Jonah and how the "great fish swallowed him up," send them this video link.
Then read these verses from Matthew 12:39-42 . . . .
"An evil generation seeks for a sign, and no sign will be given to is except the sigh of the prophet Jonah. Far as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaeching of Jonah; and indeed a greater that Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgement with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater that Solomon is here."
Then pray that more and more people in this generation will come to know, and trust him, the one who is greater.
Being a single parent mother in Israel is difficult. Normally both parents must work to make ends meet. A single parent mom works twice as hard and there is very little time for the kids. Tensions buiild up, anxiety and fear abound and relationships within the family are often strained. Often children blame the hard working mother for not being there for them or even for the loss of the father.
Here's how two mom's lives were changed by God's love and then about a marriage restored.
"I was angry and frustrated. I love my daughter but I just couldn't get close to her. It was like there was a wall between us. I always got angry and blamed her. During the seminar I began to see things inside myself that I didn't know were there. I was angry at my situation. I was frustrated with all the responsibilities and burdens I carry. As I opened my heart to God's love and let him touch the painful areas in my life he released me from so much anxiety. I felt free, peaceful. I stopped blaming my daughter and asked God to help us. God healed the relationship with my daughter. Things inside of me needed to change and this opened up a whole new dimension to my relationship with her."
"I had no idea that these things were in my life. There were walls that I had built up keeping me distant from family and friends. God helped me break down these walls of my heart that were keeping me locked up in loneliness, isolation and fear. I always had the feeling that everyone was rejecting me, even my own family. I couldn't relate to my family and friends and just keep to myself. Now that God's love touched my heart I am able to relate to people in a whole new way. I am not afraid anymore and I am now able to share love and friendship with my family. God is so good! I can't even describe the wonderful things he has done in my life."
"I have been married for 12 years, but it's been a rough time. This is my second marriage and I guess I brought a lot of hurts to the relationship that I was not aware of. I love my wife but we always argue and there wasn't the real warmth and intimacy that we had when we first met. We had really grown distant and both of us made some bad choices. I had given up hope that our relationship would ever be satisfying.
During the seminar we both saw the deep hurts and unforgiveness we were holding. I saw how insensitive I had become to my wife. I had become harsh and cold not wanting to recognize the hurts and pain that it was causing her. When I opened my heart to let God's love touch me I was able to release all of these negative feelings. I started to show compassion and concern for my wife. God even gave me patience! It has been so wonderful. Now we enjoy one another just like when we first met. I love to be with my wife now. Next week we are going to renew our covenant relationship in a special ceremony at Beit Immanuel. I am so happy. I feel like God has given me my life back and I am looking forward to everyday with my wife and children."
He loves you too!
I hope you have enjoyed these brief stories of God's love changing lives. We are so encouraged by what the Lord is doing in our midst. It is affecting all of us! May you also be filled with His joy and your hearts full of the love that is beyond what we can even imagine.
Most of the time my kids love our family, and mostly I love them. But sometimes we drive each other crazy. “Why do you have to keep telling me what to do? I’m 25 years old!” I’m hearing that a lot lately.
In our home tension builds up when we try to interfere too much in our kid’s lives. “Go to school. Get a job. Do something with your life!” Sound familiar? So we try to leave them alone and let them do what they want. Makes sense, right? I thought so, but then I hear, “You don’t care about me. You’re always too busy. You don’t even know me!”
What to do? We sat down andlooked at the idea of family in the Bible. Of course the ancient world of the Bible is digital light years away from our credit card holding, university educated, mobile urbanite kids, but what a surprise to discover that the biblical word for family comes from the word for a slave. That’s right, you heard it here and whoever said you can choose your friends but you cannot choose your family had it right!
Most of you are familiar with the Hebrew word for family “meshpacha.”Did you know that the word is based on the root word “sh-p-cha,” a servant handmaiden? Curiously the concept of family in the Bible comes from the idea that all members of a family are to be servants (I love the Bible!). “Shepcha” is even used many times in parallel with “slave” like the well known passage in Psalm 123:2. “Shepcha” is someone hired to serve the family. Hagar was a “shepcha” to Sarah.
In the biblical world family has to do with those who belong to the “house of” a father. This same root “sh-p-cha” is found in other Middle Eastern Mediterranean languages like Phoenician and Ugaritic. They used the same word for a group of people held together bypatriarchal leadership. Members of the group were called servants or serfs because theyall worked together to further the purposes of the extended family. That’s right kids, say it out loud, workedtogether.
A parallel meaning of the word “shepcha” in Hebrew is “sapach” which means “to join together.” During my years in the IDF I would periodically receive a “Zav sepuah,” a letter directing me to attach myself as a medic to a tank battalion during a military campaign. An amendment to a contract is also called a “sepach” and becomes a legally binding part of the agreement. In the Bible the maiden was called a “Shepcha” because she was joined together (sapach) to the family for her entire life. Like a slave in ancient times the maidservant was completely devoted and bound to the household of the patriarchal father.
This same connection between family members, servants and handmaidens is even found in ancient Rome and in Latin. “Familia” in ancient Roman and “famul” in Latin both mean slave (are you listening?). The Latin “familia” is the root of all Latin based languages;in Spanish it’s “familia,” Germanand Yiddish “familie,” French is “famille” and English in of course it's family :)
Before you go out and buy a ball and chain to get your “servant kids” to do chores at home consider this. In Latin children are called “liberi” or free ones. This is the exact opposite of“famul” or slave. In Greek and Roman societies children were differentiated from slaves in a family in that they were free (never liked the Greeks). This is why the New Testament often contrasts the relationship of the children to the father to those of the slave (eg. Romans 8:15).
How can kids be free and servants? Children are free because they can choose to stay in the family circle. Servants had no choice. A servant or slave remained with the family by law until released or sold to another family. Children stay by choice. They are free to leave. In those days children preferred to stay in the family that provided protection and income, and children could learn the family trade insuring a successful future. Back then kids needed the family to survive. Today there are so many opportunities for young people to climb up the corporate ladders of success without help from the family many are choosing to step out on their own. Remaining a vital part of the family is a choice (apparently not for the father though?!).
As free ones the children are to inherit the family wealth. In fact a first born son that chooses to stay with the family received a double portion. He was entrusted with the bulk of the family wealth because he was willing to take responsibility. The father would share his plans with the oldest son and entrust him to teach younger ones. The oldest was left responsible for the brothers and sisters when the father is away. The inheritance and blessings of the first born are a provision given to him so that he can serve the rest of the family. Privileges come with responsibility and kids contribute to the family out of their own goodwill. (ugh, I liked the slave part better!)
Btw did you know that the Spanish “abbas” meaning a monk, the French “abbe” for a priest or monastery Father, and “abbot” in English the head or father of a monastery all derive from the Hebrew/Aramaic “Abba?” The father is given much authority because it is under his wise counsel and leadership that the family works together and prospers.
"Fatherhood is pretending the present you love the most is soap-on-a-rope." Bill Cosby
Israel is once again surrounded by turmoil. As Purim approaches the following meditation can be our guide to sanity and common sense wisdom in the complex and dangerous neighborhood called the Middle East. Translated by Philip Birnbaum from the Daily Prayer Book and read on Purim for generations, these verses continue to be a source of faith and endurance to Jewish people everywhere.
(The numbers refer to footnotes I have added at the bottom)
The Lord wrecked the counsel of the heathen,
Frustrating the plans of the crafty,
When against us rose a wicked man.
A hateful offshoot of Amalek, 1
Who grew in wealth and dug his own grave,
It was his power that ensnared him! 2
He wished to entrap and was entrapped;
He sought to destroy and was destroyed.3
Haman revealed his fathers’ hatred,
And stirred Esau’s enmity to Jacob 4
He failed to recall that he, the foe,
Was born thanks to Saul’s pity for Agag. 5
The wicked panned to cut off the righteous;
But the impure was caught by the pure. 6
Mordecai’s kindness offset Saul’s fault; 7
Wicked Haman heaped guilt upon guilt.
He hid his crafty plans in his heart,
And gave himself over to evil. 8
He laid his hands on godly people,
Spending his wealth to destroy their name. 9
When Mordecai saw that wrath had gone forth,
Haman’s decrees issued in Shushan, 10
He put on sackcloth, sign of mourning,
Proclaimed a fast and sat in ashes.
Who would rise to atone for errors,
To gain pardon for our father’ sins? 11
A flower blossomed forth from a palm,
Hadassah 12 rose to stir those who slept!
Her servants hastily brought Haman,
To make him drink the wine of poison, 13
He rose by wealth and sank by evil,
Being hanged on the gallows he made. 14
All the people of the world were agape 15
When Haman’s pur 16 became our Purim.
The upright were saved from evil men;
The enemies were put in their place.
The Jews undertook to make Purim,
To rejoice each and every year.
Thou didst hear Mordecai and Esther;
Thou 17 didst hang Haman and his sons.
1Amalek an ancient and unrelenting enemy of Israel comes to represent all the enemies of good and of God.
2 Although Haman is part of a long list of anti-Semites, the reasons the prayer gives for hating Jews is fascinating. The first of these is that money and power corrupt. This is a major issue for the Middle East dictators trying to hold onto their positions.
3 The theme of the enemies troubles falling on their own heads runs right through scripture beginning with the story of Cain and Abel. The jealousy and anger that captured Cain’s heart towards his brother Abel becomes the mark on his forehead condemning him to a life of wandering isolation and unfruitful labor. What he wanted to do to others came upon himself. Muslims are now fighting amongst themselves.
4 The prayer understands that prejudice, racism and hatred are often passed down from one generation to the next. This idea is expressed in Jeremiah 31:29 “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” Could this be part of Yeshua’s prayer when he recognizes that the children do not even understand what they are doing? “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.”
5 King Saul spared wicked King Agag (an Amalakite) though the Lord was angered with Saul for this. It appears that Saul’s mercy though well intended was unappreciated and resulted in even more trouble.
6 “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Yeshua
7 Refers to Mordecai taking care of the young orphaned Esther. As Yeshua says, “Wisdom is justified by her children.” Luke 7:35 Good deeds will always find their reward.
8 The prayer acknowledges that Haman didn’t just wake up one day and decide to hate the Jews. There is a long process that goes on which eventually results in his wicked actions. God is longsuffering and allows for every opportunity for repentance. Let us keep our hearts open for the real possibility for change in the Middle East.
9 How many Middle East nations are wasting their vast resources on hatred and violence instead of social and economic development? If they continue in this way they will bring poverty upon themselves.
10 The Persian capital city of the times.
11 In spite of all the evil and wickedness that have arisen against his people, Mordechai, and the Jewish people, cry out and mourn in repentance for their own sinfulness. Wow.
12 Hadassah whose name in Hebrew means myrtle is the common bush that grows in every back yard in Israel. Its leaves carry an aromatic perfume and it shows small white flowers in Spring.
13 Of course it wasn’t real poison he drank, but rather the results of his bitterness of heart and soul because of his anti-Semetic attitudes. It is a fatal cup to drink.
14 Oh the irony and the ecstasy of God’s kingdom ways.
15 Not the Greek for love. They were so deeply moved that they were left wide-mouthed speechless.
16 “pur” comes from the Babylonia “puru” which means “lot” and is used only in the Book of Esther. It is similar in meaning to the usual Hebrew word for “fate” which is “goral.” Naming the festival Purim is acknowledging the uncanny circumstances surrounding this uncommon story where we witness the sovereign hand of God throughout though his name is never mentioned once n the entire scroll.
17 God is given credit although it was the King of Persia, King Ahasuerus, that said, “Hang him.” Rabbis referred to God's role as hester panim, or "hiding of the Face", which is also said to be hinted at in a word play (Megillat Hester) regarding the Hebrew name for the Book of Esther, Megillat Esther—literally, "revelation of [that which is] hidden."
The festival of Purim is celebrated in Israel once again on the 14thday of Adar orMarch 20th.
We are deeply moved by the tragedy that has befallen your people. We watch with admiration as you courageously resist your tears knowing that the loss of your loved ones is inwardly wrenching your hearts.
Your bravery in this hour of crisis is evident to all.
For generations people have found some consolation in the story of Job. Perhaps you might also find here some comfort and strength.
One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house,
a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby,
and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house,
when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
In the midst of your tears and sorrow for your loved ones, and as you mourn for all that is lost, may you also know that all is not lost. May you know the comfort of Job.
May you know the strength to pray even as my own people have prayed for generations. At our gravesites, in our homes during the days of “shiva” mourning, or amongst the ashes of Auschwitz, we stand, and through our tears, we find the courage to pray...
“yitgadal v’yitkadesh shemai raba…”
“Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world which he will renew, reviving the dead…
rebuilding the city and his shrine therein;
uprooting idolatry from the earth and restoring divine worship to its site…”
Our dearly beloved people of Japan. May you find the courage to stand in hope in the hour of your distress.
Even as it is written,
“These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
And He who sits on the throne will dwell amongst them.
They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat;
for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Rev.7:14-17
Inwardly I have been laughing at what is happening all around the Middle East. I have been afraid to admit it, but for weeks as I watch the protests raging in Arab nations, I’ve been holding back a smile. I just can’t help it. Something about this situation is making me happy. I even want to laugh. But I couldn’t admit it. I felt restrained, like I shouldn’t be enjoying someone else’s troubles.
You see I didn’t want to give the impression that I enjoy watching my enemies kill one another. That wouldn’t be right. I don’t want to be like the Muslims I see dancing in the streets when Jews are slaughtered or honoring suicide terrorists (see for example http://palwatch.org/). That is not funny. The cold-blooded murder of innocent men, women and children is no reason to rejoice.
Retribution does not make me laugh either. I thought I was glad to see Muslims killing each other because of what they have done to the people of Israel. Those of you who know me know that I have labored tirelessly for the past 3 decades building relationships with Arabs across the Middle East. I love the Arab people. I do not enjoy watching people in these nations killing each other. Vengeance is not funny.
I couldn’t understand why all this turmoil in the Middle East was making me laugh, until I read the story of Purim.
No matter how many times I read the story of how Haman had to parade Mordecai through the city square on the king’s horse I laugh out loud. Every time I picture Haman bent over walking in front of the horse proclaiming, “Thus shall is be done to the man whom the king delights to honor,” I can’t help smiling.
That is why I am laughing. It is the comic relief watching the fool foiled by his own foolishness. It is Haman hung on his own hemp. It is the amusement of watching the malevolent make a laughing stock of themselves.
All these many years I have listened to Arab countries ridiculing, demeaning and despising Israel. I have listened to their calls and lived through their plots to destroy my people. While I try to brush aside their deceitful propaganda as ignorance, evil or insanity, these threats do not go unheard. I am aware of deep fears and intimidation these threats produce within me. The continuous contention, belligerence, hostility and bad blood leaves us with insecurities. We are not at peace in our own land. Even our strongest faith can leave us vulnerable.
But now I am laughing. I am laughing because I am comforted in the knowledge that things are the way they should be. That justice rolls down, eventually. That right is right, even when the whole world says otherwise. And it is reassuring to know that wrong gets it in the end.
I am laughing because my fears are getting released. Now when I hear them blaming Israel for this or for that, criticizing and spreading vicious lies, it doesn't bother me so much anymore. I just think about how much trouble they are having in their own countries. And I have a little chuckle.
I watched a CNN interview with Benjamin Netanyahu this week and was impressed. It made me realize that perhaps it is the Israelis more than anyone else in the world that can help us better understand the growing unrest in the Middle East. We have lived and survived in this tough neighborhood as a robust democracy for six decades. During the interview Netanyahu makes a few cleverly cloaked remarks hinting that Europe and the States are already communicating with the Israelis trying to understand how best respond to the growing protest movements around the Middle East.
In light of this, I want to recommend that you read Netanyahu's excellent book A Place Amongst The Nations. This book more than any other will give you the essential inside understanding that will help you more fully understand what is really happening in the Middle East today. In this meticulously researched book, which took him five years to complete, Netanyahu traces the origins, history, and politics of Israel's relationship with the Arab world. In his easy to read and sometimes humurous style, Netanyahu highlights those key factors that will surely determine the future of this region.
Anyone interested in Israel and what is happening in the Middle East must read this book. Paul Johnson of Commentary Magazine says about Netanyahu's book, "A formidable accomplishment... the most succinct, readable, powerfully argued, and convincing summary of Israel's case. There are many good books about Israel and the Arabs. But A Place Amongst the Nations is the one that those most interested in the subject must now read."
There are very few world leaders left with the capacity to fully grasp the historical relevance of what is happening in the Middle East today. Netanyahu, the first and only Israeli prime minister born and raised in Israel after the State of Israeli's foundation, is uniquely qualified to help us understand. A.M. Rosenthal of the New York Times says, "Without reading it [Place Amongst the Nations], people seriously interested in the Middle East will remain intellectual bystanders, ducking the historic discourse it forces open." Pick up a copy of his book hereand let me know what you think.
Since the beginning of the tragic events in Japan, I have been receiving a number of letters from people saying that God allowed this tragedy because of a negative statement made by the Japanese government last year about Israeli settlers in Judea and Samaria. And it really bothers me. It reminds me of some rabbis in Israel when they claim that there was another terror attack because not enough people kept the Sabbath, or that Israeli soldiers are killed in battle because they didn’t eat kosher food.
These conclusions are based on a false assumption that suffering is always the result of sin. It is the same misunderstanding and false teaching that Job’s friends had when they accused Job. They came to the conclusion that the tragedy that had fallen on him was the result of his sin. These friends had no other way of understanding his punishment (Job 2:7). But they were wrong (Job 42:7).
The Book of Job does not give us the answer of why humans suffer. It only leaves us with the mystery of why bad things happen to good people. Our conclusion must be that there is no answer to the problem of suffering in the world. Life is far more complicated than we can ever imagine and there are many things that we cannot understand. It is even as the sages taught, “It is not in our power to understand either the suffering of the righteous or the prosperity of the wicked” (Pirkei Avot 4:15).
So why do some people think that they can accuse God for bringing this tragedy on Japan because of some anti-Israel statements? Do they think that they can frighten the Japanese into becoming believers by pointing the finger? Did Job come closer to God because ofhis friends’ accusations? In fact, it is these kinds of accusations that only make God into a narrow-minded and grudgeful vindicator.
What we can learn from Job is how to endure our tragedies. It is the lesson that all those who suffer must learn; how to walk through the tragedies of life without losing our sense of mystery and awe. Job argues with God at every point and questions him with fervor. But in the end he can only confess, “Therefore I spoke but did not understand, wonders beyond me that I did not know… Therefore do I repent…” (42:3-6 ).
Troubles have a way of teaching us more than we know. Suffering broadens our capacity for tenderness and teaches us to resist the temptation towards bitterness and desolation. It is in suffering that we learn that we can find the good, even amongst the devastation. We learn to endure through hardships, not because we understand, but because we are willing to take another step towards compassion.
May all those who think that they have the answers learn to be quiet when tragedy strikes. May they not attempt to place blame on the victims, but rather learn to offer real comfort to the people who are suffering. Real comfort comes from acts and words of kindness and concern, not from false accusations.
I am indebted to Reuven Hammer, former president of the International Rabbinical Assembly for some of the material found in this blog adapted from his article "Job and his Comforters," Jerusalem Post, March 25, 2011
Do you sometimes wonder “God, why did you make me the way I am?” Maybe you wish you looked differently, or were able to do things you see others doing? Do your circumstances sometimes seem, well, just more difficult for you than for others? Is it hard for you to accept your “Lot” in life?
Abraham accepted his, and in this portion of scripture we can discover a key about Abraham’s faith that will help us accept ours too. That key is understanding the revelation that comes to Abraham in this passage where God makes himself known to Abraham as God Most High, in Hebrew “El Elyon.”
Abraham has just defeated the King of Sodom and rescued his nephew Lot. He is on his way home when Melchizedek, King of Salem, Priest of God Most High comes out to greet him with bread and wine and blesses Abraham saying:
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand” (14:19-20)
God Most High, or El Elyon, is described as “Creator of heaven and earth.” The word “creator” here is not the usual Hebrew word “bara,” but rather “konne” which means “measured exactly according to the pattern determined.” It comes from the word for a reed or a rod which back in those days was used as a stick of standard length for measuring things. Interestingly enough there is also a Greek form of the same word “kanne” from which we get the word “canon” in English or the standard by which we measure scriptures.
So, El Elyon, or creator (konne) of heaven and earth actually means that God has designed all of creation according to the pattern he desires. El Elyon is the sovereign God who designs creation just the way he wants it.
King David uses “konne” in Psalm 139:13, “For you created my inmost being.” El Elyon has “measured” or designed who he is as an individual. Characteristics of personality, areas of gifting and abilities, all are a part of God’s sovereign design for his life. El Elyon sovereignly weaves into our personalities unique personality traits, special qualities that make you and I unlike anybody else. The psalm goes on to say that even our physical bodies are part of a unique design that our heavenly Father fashioned. Read all of Psalm 139, it’s one of my favorites.
There is another implication of “konne.” In modern Hebrew it means “to buy” (note: used less and less today at current rates of inflation!) which comes from the original meaning of a rod of measurement used in at market. In biblical Hebrew it meant simply “to have ownership” or “take possession.” El Elyon, creator (konne) of heaven and earth means that God owns everything. That’s why Abraham responds to Melchizedek, priest of El Elyon, by “giving him a tenth (tithe) of everything” (14:20). This is actually the biblical meaning of the tithe. It is a symbolic acknowledgment that everything belongs to God. Abraham is acknowledging that El Elyon alone is owner of all things.
Abraham’s faith is so rooted in his understanding of God as El Elyon that when the King of Sodom, after being defeated, comes back to Abraham and offers him the spoils of the battle, Abraham replies:
“I have raised my hands to the Lord, El Elyon, creator “konne” of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of your sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’” (14:22-23)
Why would Abraham refuse this man’s wealth? He is simply choosing to live in the light of the revelation that God as El Elyon, owner of all things. He will not be obligated to any other, no one could ever take credit for making Abraham the man rich in faith and fortune that he became. No one else would ever be master over him, for El Elyon alone is his Sovereign Lord.
What purity, what honesty, what blessing would follow a nation where men were willing to say as Abraham said, “I have lifted my hand to El Elyon, owner ofall things... that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’” Have we not all seen good men, gifted men, get involved in government with a genuine concern to make a difference in society only to be corrupted by the lures of material gain? In the end they can no longer stand up for what they believe because they had been “bought” by constituencies and pressure groups whose threat to remove their support could no longer be resisted. Indeed the preacher said well, “Better is a poor man whose walk is blameless, than a rich man whose ways are perverse” (Prov.28:6)
Acknowledging that God is the Sovereign El Elyon in every aspect of life is not the same as passive fatalism which accepts anything and everything without question. Rather it is the ability to accept who we are as persons created by sovereign design, and to live our lives to the fullest by serving faithfully in areas where God has uniquely gifted us. It is also an uncompromising determination to “be obligated to no man...except to love...”(Rom.8:13) so that the LORD alone can be master over every aspect of our lives.
Living by faith in a sovereign of God can set us free from the entrapments, treacheries and manipulations of men and assure us a life of fruitfulness and blessing.