As I was driving to work the other day I came upon a common scene. A group of turkey vultures were eating a dead raccoon that had been killed in the middle of the road. The beauty and intricacy of nature has always, always held a special place in my heart and I was overcome with the idea of G-d’s purposes.
Those vultures were put here to do a job. Their purpose is to eat what has died. In essence… to clean things up. In nature these birds are caretakers of an important process in G-d’s design. Their reason for existing is to take away the sight of death and in doing so they complete a necessary step in the cycle of life.
I saw the torn body of the raccoon and felt sad. But I also witnessed the vultures fulfilling their purpose and I felt peaceful knowing that HIS design is perfect. If you do any research on the way that scavenger birds are ‘built’ you will find that the process is indeed, perfect. G-d has equipped them with everything they need both anatomically and physiologically to get the job done; the end result leaving them and our world, clean. I felt inspired and strengthened by the knowledge that I, too, have been delegated a purpose.
So as I slowed my vehicle down, waiting for the birds to fly out of the way, I simply smiled and thought “Good job, guys” and I continued on my way to work.
It may seem a bit ‘over zealous’ to compare carrion eating birds to any kind of spiritual lesson. But now is as good of a time as any to look a bit closer at the word ‘rule.’ The Hebrew word for rule (as seen in Genesis 1: 26; 28) in regards to our relationship with other living things, is radah.
Radah more accurately means ‘dominion over.’ The continuous theme in the Scriptures in regards to ruling is this: Those who rule; serve. Men who rule…if they are wise….. see themselves as servants to G-d and to those they have been given dominion over. Even in Proverbs 6, King Solomon speaks of a wise ant with a lesson to teach. So in light of this truth I strive to be still and learn from the other creatures of G-d.
What I didn’t realize about my morning experience…. an experience that lasted no more than 30 seconds…… an experience that allowed me to receive peace and focus…… an experience that stayed with me throughout the day……this experience…..was in no way over.
That afternoon, as I drove home, I wondered if there would be any sign of the poor raccoon. Turkey Vultures, I had observed in the past, are quite efficient at cleaning up our roads. And sure enough, I would have never noticed where that scene from the morning had taken place… except….now in the road was a pile of black feathers.
Someone, obviously, hadn’t slowed down.
Immediately I thought of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus and the words revealed to Ananias by the LORD.
“I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” -Acts 9:16
Now please, don’t think that I am comparing Paul to a vulture. But what I was allowed to see in an instant was the parallel. We are called to be servants of G-d! Each of us is delegated with an important piece of G-d’s puzzle. That vulture was performing its G-d ordained purpose on this earth. And that vulture died while performing it.
What consumed me about this picture… what disturbed me… is this: We are so quick to embrace the idea of blessings and rewards when it comes to serving G-d and yet we are just as quick to reject any sense of accountability!
I hear preachers preaching from their pulpits to “Serve Jesus!” and to “Live like Jesus!” And then they mention a ‘new book’ that they have authored to inspire Christians on their walk. But they completely avoid the basics of HOW to serve Him and HOW to be like Him because their only point of reference is the New Testament!
The best book you can have to inspire you as a Believer is the one authored by the LIVING WORD, YESHUA! The title of this book is TANAKH; known in many circles as the ‘Old’ Testament. Torah, Nevi’im, Ketuvim. Moses, Prophets, Writings.
In Luke, Yeshua tells a story of a Rich man and a poor, diseased man named Lazarus. Lazarus dies and goes up. The rich man dies and goes down. The rich man, in torment, sees Lazarus in Heaven with Abraham and asks for a drink. Abraham explains to the rich man that no-one below can pass through to above and no-one above can pass through to below. The rich man then begs for Lazarus to be allowed to visit his father’s house so that his brothers may be spared the same fate as he.
What did Abraham reply?
“They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” -Luke 16:29
The rich man was not satisfied with this answer saying that if someone from the dead visited his house, they would certainly change their ways.
Again, Abraham speaks:
“If they will not hear Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if one from the dead should rise”
Abraham, first, tells the rich man in torment that his brothers have a chance if they will hear Moses and the Prophets. Apparently, the rich man didn’t believe that his brothers would do that. What Yeshua is saying through this story is that if those men were not rooted in Torah and the Prophets, they wouldn’t understand the message, whether it came from a ghost… or from His own Resurrection. They might be stunned enough to believe in something, but rooting their faith in something other than Torah and the Prophets wasn’t going to get them far. Yeshua spoke of those needing a sign as “wicked and faithless” (Matt. 12:39; 16:4).
It would be easy for us as Believers, since we know that the ‘one who should rise from the dead’ is Yeshua, to think that this story doesn’t apply to us. But, is our faith rooted in Torah (Moses) and the Prophets of Israel or is it rooted in the ‘signs’ of Yeshua’s miracles and resurrection?
In our Western way of thinking, we have a very lofty, surreal idea of what a ‘sign’ from G-d means. We expect a ‘sign’ to be something miraculous and unexplainable. A ‘sign’ in Hebrew thought doesn’t mean that at all. In Hebrew thought a sign is just like those boards we see on our highways. Signs. They tell you what road you’re on and show you where to turn when you come to an intersection. They tell you how fast you are allowed to drive and what dangers are ahead and when to merge and when to yield. That’s it. Simple.
Yeshua’s death and resurrection was another ‘sign;’ this one showing us that traffic was merging. He confirms this when He says to those seeking a sign that they had already received it through the Prophet Jonah! (Matt. 12:40; 16:4) After Yeshua’s death and Resurrection, those who had seen the ‘sign’ left by Jonah understood.
Not only is Yeshua warning those who obviously hadn’t been following the signs, He was also chastising those who had become so Hellenized in their thinking that they desired unexplainable events to convince them. We, as Believers, should not need…nor rely on … the New Testament for our faith.
The New Testament Scriptures are a blessing! They are a blessing because they allow us to identify and witness the prophecies of Messiah! They are a blessing because they allow us to drink in more of the physical utterances of the LIVING WORD while He was in the flesh! (I say more because He spoke in the flesh in the Tanakh as well) They are a blessing because they record for us the discipleship of the nations which is promised in the Tanakh! Most importantly, and the simplest of all, the New Testament Scriptures are a blessing because they allow us to enjoy a deeper appreciation and love for what we already know! At least…. we should already know.
We sometimes symbolize our walk with G-d as a ‘race of faith’. It is a race of faith. But it’s not a sprint through the New Testament. It’s a marathon through the Tanakh.
The race started with creation and we began to run. And all along the way LIVING WATER cleanses us and quenches our thirst; BREAD OF LIFE nourishes us; The COMFORTER let’s us stop and rest; the TEACHER instructs us to not look back and to stay on the righteous path; and G-D manages. Every word, number, sentence, story, command and judgment gives us the strength we need to finish the race.
Our REEDEEMER stands at the Finish Line granting admittance to the Kingdom of G-d.
Unfortunately, the ‘church’ wants to start runners on the Finish Line next to a resurrected ‘Jesus’ and have them run backwards. How can we accept salvation if we don’t understand what we are saved from? That is the message of the New Testament but what I hear these days coming from ‘the church’ sounds no different than one of the hundreds of secular “self-help” motivational speakers out there! The messages coming from the pulpits are practical, smart living ‘tips’ with a twist. Instead of the theme being secular like How To Take off Those Pounds Forever or Managing Your Money Through Smart Investing, the theme is How To Accept Jesus and Use Him to Fix Your Problems.
They are making the race all about us. It’s not about us! It’s about G-d! It’s about a plan that far exceeds our understanding. He was merciful enough to not wipe us out of existence with the flood and after all these years man still searches for a shortcut that requires no accountability.
Only now it’s not only through atheistic self-adoration and paganism, but it’s also through a ‘church’ that is erasing Moses and the Prophets. I heard a minister last week explain to his radio audience that we know the number 6 is the ‘number for man’ because the Book of Revelation tells us so! What about Genesis??? In the beginning??? Man was created on the 6th day!?!?!? There are only two truths from the Tanakh that I have seen all denominations of the ‘church’ universally and consistently teach: 1) The Ten Commandments (Exodus, Deut); and 2) Tithing (Genesis, Leviticus or even better, Malachi, since they can use the Scripture to support a promise of rewards).
Do you know why Paul was so zealous for the Lord? It wasn’t because of a bright light on the road to Damascus. It wasn’t the ‘miracle’ of a resurrected Yeshua speaking to him. He thought he had been running the race as a devoted and obedient servant of G-d, but he missed a sign somewhere. And when those scales fell from his eyes HE SAW THE TRUTH AND FULFILLMENT OF SALVATION THAT HE WAS ALREADY RACING FOR! And from that moment on…his service was to his coming King…and he continued his race with the truth of Moses and the Prophets by his side.
Gamaliel, a respected leader of the Jewish council (still respected for his works and teachings in Judaism today) said in Acts 5 something that sheds light on what Paul, and other Pharisees of his time, were dealing with. Gamaliel recalled other men who had come in the Name of G-d. These men had followers, just like Yeshua had His disciples. And yet these men died and their followers scattered. So these men obviously were NOT from G-d.
In regards to the followers of Yeshua, who obviously hadn’t scattered after His death but were multiplying (even Priests-Acts 6:7), Gamaliel said “if it is from G-d, you will not be able to destroy it, lest you be found fighters against G-d.” The Pharisees agreed with this truth. But different factions among the people were bearing false witness against the disciples. They were telling lies against them. One liethat the disciples were accused of was teaching that Yeshua changed Torah (Acts 6:14). It was a lie because the disciples were not teaching this! Yeshua DID NOT change Torah! But the ‘church’ has.
Paul’s experience didn’t change his beliefs. It didn’t change the rules of the race. It just pushed him back on the right course because G-d had a purpose for him.
In telling the story of Paul on the road to Damascus, I’ve noticed that some Bibles completely leave out the ending of Acts 9:5.
“And he [Paul] said, Who are you, Sir? And the Lord said, I am Yeshua whom you persecute. It is hard for you to kick against the prods.”
Do you know why oxen were the preferred animal for farming in the Hebrew culture? Because they naturally walk in a straight line! (Which itself is a wonderful example of the straight path of righteousness in G-d’s perfect design) When the yoke was put on the oxen, a board was connected behind them with sharp, pointed pieces of wood on it. If the ox became stubborn and didn’t want to move at the prodding of the farmer, it would kick. When it kicked….it hurt its feet. The ox would get mad and kick again. But it eventually learned to stop kicking. Paul thought he was running a straight race. But Yeshua showed him that he had become as ‘stubborn as an ox.’
Paul knew that Gamaliel, in his wisdom, had spoken the truth. Paul was found, literally, to be fighting against G-d. And he repented… in accordance with the teachings of the Tanakh. Repentance is not a ‘New Testament’ revelation.
And again, what did the Lord say? “I will show him how much he must suffer.”
Which brings us back to the vultures.
Psalm 110: 2-4
“The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion; rule [radah] in the midst of Your enemies. Your people shall be willing in the day of Your might; in the majesties of holiness from the womb of the dawn, to You is the dew of Your youth.”
In Hebrew the word for ‘willing’ in this verse is nedebah. It is used throughout the Tanakh with an understanding of a freewill offering as opposed to terumah which illustrates ‘required’ offerings. It is a difference of the heart. Nedebah is voluntary, terumah is obliging. Paul was nedebah. He gave himself to G-d from his heart.
If we are to be nedebah in the day of His might then we must be performing our duties with diligence and obedience. Freely, voluntarily. We should be focused on the race, not on the Finish Line. Focused on our purpose, not on the prize. We are striving to cross over that Finish Line with our hands out and our heads held high. But if we’re not sweating….if our muscles aren’t burning….if our feet aren’t bleeding and our back isn’t bending….we missed something along the way.
Sprinters through the New Testament enter the race at the last 100 yards. They might sprain their ankle. They might pull a hamstring muscle. And yes, they might make it to the Finish Line. But what a wonderfully rich and fulfilling and empowering race they have missed.
Our Spiritual lives and fellowship with one another is not a conga line at a party where ‘Jesus’ will turn the water into wine and offer an all-you-can-eat buffet made from a loaf of bread. But that’s the message I’m hearing out there. And with that mindset we will not be prepared to be willing in the day of His might. We will not be prepared to accept the possibility that we may be just like that pile of black feathers; fulfilling our purpose unafraid of what may be around the corner.
I’m glad that I am speaking of this marathon in the Spiritual sense because if I attempted to run a physical marathon, I would never come close to finishing. It would require a physical endurance that I don’t possess. But if I decided today that I wanted to try, I would immediately begin endurance training. I would buy the best book on the market to show me what I need to do. That book would tell what I need to do. It would tell me to change my diet, change my exercise routine, change my schedule and change my focus.
The Spiritual race, the one that I am running right now, is no different.
The road was created. The path for the race existed. G-d, through Moses and the Prophets, outlined the path for me. Yeshua cleanses me, quenches my thirst and nourishes my body. G-d’s Spirit races along with me as we pass all the characters from the Scriptures who line the path, cheering me onward and pointing at the signs.
And I’m running. And I’m building strength and endurance. And I’m praying to my Father to let every step testify that I am willing. Let every step draw me closer to that Finish Line where I am granted admittance through the purification of Yeshua’s sacrifice.
And if I’m alive in the flesh when I get there, I will cross into the Kingdom of G-d through the gate in Jerusalem…. and bow to my King. If I must pass through death first……I will still cross into the Kingdom of G-d… through the gate of Heaven…. and bow to my King.
Hearing “Well done” is all that I hope for. In that hope lives true joy and freedom.
Author: Jennifer Ross