Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Aleph - Meditations on the Excellencies God's Word

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

It seems that Arlee Bird, the founder of the A-Z challenge was not the first to come up with the idea.
Actually I think this is kind of funny. I had decided to tackle Psalm 119 during the month of May. It is the longest Psalm in the bible and it has funny words over each paragraph. It turns out that "the psalm is an acrostic of twenty-two stanzas, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The eight poetic lines of each stanza begin with the same Hebrew letter." ~The Reformation Study Bible

Matthew Henry has this to say "It is divided into twenty-two parts, according to the number of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and each part consists of eight verses, all the verses of the first part beginning with Aleph, all the verses of the second with Beth, and so on, without any flaw throughout the whole psalm. Archbishop Tillotson says, It seems to have more of poetical skill and number in it than we at this distance can easily understand. Some have called it the saints’ alphabet; and it were to be wished we had it as ready in our memories as the very letters of our alphabet, as ready as our A B C."

So here's our passage for today for the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. If you look at the chart above you may be confused like I was they read from right to left so the Aleph is the top line on the right side. Its called the "alef-bet," from the names of its first two letters. If you would like to hear how each letter is pronounced I found a site that has a sound file that you can click.
Here's one you can learn and sing to the kids.

א Aleph

119 Blessed are the undefiled in the way,
Who walk in the law of the Lord!
Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
Who seek Him with the whole heart!
They also do no iniquity;
They walk in His ways.
You have commanded us
To keep Your precepts diligently.
Oh, that my ways were directed
To keep Your statutes!
Then I would not be ashamed,
When I look into all Your commandments.
I will praise You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
I will keep Your statutes;
Oh, do not forsake me utterly!

I thought this was interesting 
"The Hebrew word for "letter" is ot (אוֹת), which can also mean "sign" or "wonder." Each letter of the Aleph-Bet, then, may contain signs that point to wonderful truths about life.

According to midrash, the LORD God Himself taught the alphabet (along with the numerical values, mathematical relationships, etc. for the letters) to Adam ha-rishon, who then transmitted this knowledge to his sons, and they passed this to their sons, and so on, until it was taught to Jacob at the School of Shem in Salem (later renamed Jerusalem). Jacob taught the secrets of the alphabet to Joseph, who used it to decipher dreams, etc. "~ John J Parsons of Hebrew for Christians. 

I'm going to take a look at this set of verses in the Message Version of the bible. Because my first pass through it feels a bit legalistic and I'm sure it is because of words like commandments, statutes, judgement, iniquity. Those are words we kind of glaze over in our Jesus my buddy and pal mentality. 

Psalm 119

The Message (MSG)
119 1-8 You’re blessed when you stay on course,
    walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
You’re blessed when you follow his directions,
    doing your best to find him.
That’s right—you don’t go off on your own;
    you walk straight along the road he set.
You, God, prescribed the right way to live;
    now you expect us to live it.
Oh, that my steps might be steady,
    keeping to the course you set;
Then I’d never have any regrets
    in comparing my life with your counsel.
I thank you for speaking straight from your heart;
    I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.
I’m going to do what you tell me to do;
    don’t ever walk off and leave me.

I think this is interesting as I am presently trying to figure out what is God's plan, course, path, or purpose for my life. I've approach life with a if you see a need do what you can to meet it kind of mentality. As a result I have a lot of skills from years of mostly volunteer ministry work. I've led children's ministries, and youth groups, home groups. I've done tech stuff and set up and nursery and Vacation Bible School. I've been on church boards and prayer teams, worship teams. Ministries to the homeless and poor and Servant Evangelism. I've had opportunities to explore a lot of things. Other than available, what exactly is Gods plan and calling for my life? 

I suppose around 50+ you start to think about what you want to do for the rest of your life because... well the sands of time are slipping away.  So I am re-evaluating and fine tuning. I've just started reading a book called The Path by Laurie Beth Jones. She says "A personal mission statement acts as both a harness and a sword - harnessing you to what is true about your life, and cutting away all that is false." 

She says later" People cannot find their missions until they know themselves. Even Jesus had to go out into the wilderness to get clear about who he was and to take the full measure of his gifts. The fact that he was able to describe himself afterwards in single - word pictures is a testimony of the power of self-knowledge and self - esteem. 'I am the Light', He said. I am the Way. I am the Vine. I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Gate. He had a multitude of powerful and positive images that communicated to both himself and others who he was."

"You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God."

How can you stay on course when you don't know what your course actually is. Really living the Christian life has to be about more than don't cuss, don't chew and don't hang with those who do. Its more than a life of don't. God has a wonderful plan and like our Psalm says "you are blessed when you stay on course. But notice that its not your own road, it is the road revealed by God. Most of us don't even bother to consult God on what we should do or what way we should go. I believe he wants to help us understand ourselves. Why has he given us particular opportunities to gain various skills, why has the Holy Spirit given us particular gifts? How has our environment and the people in in molded and shaped us. Have we been shaped to His design or have we morphed into the ideals of others and find ourselves unfilled trying to live out someone else's dream or unfulfilled dream.  

You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. 

So maybe you feel clueless but his directions are found in his Word. You have to do more with that bible of your than use it to prop up the bed or to gather dust. When we do our best to find Him he meet us. If you seek you will find, if you seek with all your heart. 

That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.
You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it.

Are you on the strait road that he has set for you or have you gotten off into the weeds and brambles?
I've been praying and seeking the Lord for direction and I started a drawing journal. As I pray and listen I try to express it on the papers. 

The mountains are the big obstacles that loom ahead of us. We have to choose to believe that God is bigger than those things that seem to stand in our way like the giant Goliath. We need to be like David or Joshua and Caleb who believed God could make a way even when we are as small as grasshoppers compared to the giants we face. 

Again God's instructions are found in his Word. He has prescribed the way to live. Its up to you to decide to live it.  

The last part is like a prayer and you might even echo it as you pray today. 
"Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set;
Then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel.
I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.
I’m going to do what you tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me."

Some of you live with a mountain of regrets. You have not done things God's way and you and others around you have been hurt and broken. God wants to forgive and heal you. He wants to speak strait to your heart and to help you to learn the pattern of His right ways of living. He wants to help you to discover what he dreamed for you to be.  He promises to never leave or forsake us. There is another verse that says nothing can snatch you out of his hand. You however can walk away sometimes intentionally and sometimes you have just slowly drifted and have become like that couple that passes one another in the hall but are no longer really connected. God want to reconnect you. He wants to make you alive with his purposes and plans. 

Help us to make our step steady and to find and keep on the course that you have set for each of us. Help us to repent and forgive and deal with the mountain of regrets. Wash us that we might walk rightly before you covered by the precious blood of Jesus, that allows us to approach you in your awesome holiness. Help us to be assured of your love and faithfulness and to know you will never walk off and leave us. 

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