Shophet ~ Judge

“For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us.” Isaiah 33:22

This is by far not the most popular of the names of God and truthfully I struggled a bit with studying it. But one thing I have learned while studying scripture is that we must study all of it, not just the parts we like the best. I think it is hard for us to think of God as a judge because well we don’t always see judges in the best light. Sometimes we will tend to see the judge as someone who is sitting high on a bench looking down their noses at us. But that is not who God is. He is not sitting up on a throne in heaven just waiting to blast us. That’s also not how all human judges are either. In fact, I have had very limited experience with judges but the ones I do know and have seen are fair and execute their judgment based on the law. In fact I know one personally and I know that she doesn’t look down her nose at people. I know that she is fair, honest, and is heartbroken over some of the judgments that she must execute. 

That is more how we should see God as Judge. He is fair and just, honest, upright and I am sure heartbroken over some of the choices that we make. He is perfect in His judgment. Quite frankly I would much rather have God as my judge than most people. And when we do sin, whether it be toward another person or a private sin that no one knows about it is toward God because we are His. 

“Against you — you alone — I have sinned and done this evil in your sight. So you are right when you pass sentence; you are blameless when you judge.” Psalm 51:4

God is blameless when He judges. The sentences that He passes on us will always be fair and just and meant to turn us toward repentance and not toward blame and shame. 

In fact we can know from scripture that it is His desire to give us grace when we sin. 

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18

Knowing how God judges does not make me afraid of His judgment. I thank Him for the grace with which He judges me. 

Jehovah-Tsidkenu ~ The LORD our Righteousness!

“How then can man be righteous before God?” Job 25:4

This question was asked by one of Job’s “comforters,” Bildad the Shuhite? But it is a good question to ask. I used to really struggle with thinking of myself as righteous. I did much better to think of myself as a filthy rag. But that was even after I had become a Christian. There was something in me that felt like I should walk down the aisle at church on Sunday morning and publicly repent of all my wrongdoing for the week. I am not saying I necessarily did that every week but I was living in the shame and guilt of my past choices as well as my present choices. I was measuring myself completely by the law and well let me just say that is no way to live. I just knew that God really couldn’t accept my filthy rags because He was so Holy and I was so filthy. I just could not see that I really could think of myself as righteous. It sounded pious and uppity and I knew I would not be able to measure up. Bildad was asking a good question when he asked that question in Job. (Even though his timing may have been a little off if you ask me. Don’t send Job’s buddies to comfort me in my time of need.)

The truth of the matter is that the only way we can approach God and be righteous is once we have accepted Jesus. Prior to Jesus, the only way to be righteous was to live under the law and to strive to keep the law to the letter. And still, they must at certain times bring the blood sacrifice to atone for sins that they had committed. But once Jesus became our blood sacrifice, once and for all we can now approach the throne of grace boldly because His righteousness, His blood covers us. 

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

Once we have accepted Jesus we are to seek His righteousness. It’s all in the verb. There is a huge difference in striving to keep the law and seeking the kingdom and his righteousness. Let’s look at the definitions of strive and seek. 

Strive – make great efforts to achieve or obtain something, struggle or fight vigorously. 

Seek – attempt or desire to obtain or achieve something, ask for (something) from someone. 

The definitions themselves make me tired. Under the law the people had so many rituals and laws that they had to keep. I know for me it would have been a constant struggle. But with Jesus, all we really must do is pursue and seek Him. And all the things can and will fall into place. That is not to say that life will be perfect. But we will be perfected in Christ in order to approach the throne of grace. 

“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” Isaiah 32:17

When we pursue Him and His righteousness, the benefits are a life of peace, quietness and trust. Kind of reminds me of the words of an old hymn. 

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.” 

That’s the best place for my hope to be, on Christ, the solid rock! 

Jehovah-Tsidkenu ~ The Lord is our Righteousness!

“Behold the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” Jeremiah 33:16

I heard it said just the other day that when God repeats something in scripture he means for us to “get it”!  Well this is one of those places that is repeated almost verbatim. Yesterday I showed you the first place Jehovah-Tsidkenu was in Jeremiah 23:6 and this is the second place and it reads almost identical. So I think the Lord intends for us to “get it”. This prophecy is pointing to Jesus. He is fulfilled the promise that there would forever be a king from the Davidic line in that He is our King of Kings on the throne today. And he is the one who will always be the executor of  justice and righteousness in all the earth. 

As we look to Him for our righteousness, we can feel small and inept because we know that our righteousness could never measure up to Jesus righteousness as He walked this earth as a sinless man. But even though our righteousness in our human efforts can never measure up to Jesus, that is not how we are supposed to look at it. In fact, if that is how we are trying to measure it we will fall short and scripture shows us that we will. 

“As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one.’” Romans 3:10

But what we have to do is realize and grasp the fact that we are righteous and can be righteous only through the blood of Jesus that we believe. 

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith.” Romans 3:21-25

We are righteous in the eyes of God through our faith in Jesus. Our righteousness is not something we earn. If you believe in Him who was crucified and raised again, you are righteous already. Your sins are washed away no matter what they are. This means your past sins, your present sins, as well as your future sins. If they are sins in your thought life, of your tongue or if you struggle daily with sins none are any worse than the other and they are all washed away in God’s eyes. This is not meant to give us a license to sin. Because of this gif of grace we have received, we should want to put away the sin. But we can know that even when we do mess up, because we will as there is only one who ever walked the earth sinless, that we are still righteous to approach the throne of grace! Only because of Jehovah-Tsidkenu ~ The Lord our Righteousness! 

Jehovah-Tsidkenu ~ The Lord our Righteousness

There are a couple of places in scripture that this name of God specifically appears. However, we can see the Lord’s righteousness throughout scripture. We will look at the first place that the term appears. 

“In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” Jeremiah 23:6 

The context of this verse in the book of Jeremiah is prophecy by Jeremiah for when God will gather the flock of Israel who had been taken captive to Babylon. God is stating that he will gather His people back to Israel, into His Promised Land and that they would be blessed. They would have leadership and they would multiply. Even though by this time it appeared that the line of Kings of David had been cut off, God was going to make good on His promise that the Messiah would come from the Davidic line and that He would raise up a “Branch of David”. He would bring Israel back to The Promised Line, He would raise up a king and His people would be blessed. And in it Israel would “dwell securely”. 

When we look at the word righteousness, we often look at it more negatively than positively. We think of it as “self-righteousness”. However we are made righteous through the blood of Jesus. Jehovah-Tsidkenu puts righteousness in it’s rightful place. Our Lord is our righteousness. We are made righteous because of God, not because of anything we have done. God was planning to save Israel and bring them out of captivity back to the Promised Land because of His righteousness not because of anything they had done. 

We are made righteous through His blood. Not because of anything we have done. In the book of Isaiah it says “and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). So many times we think we are supposed to try to be good enough to come to Jesus BEFORE we come to Him when the truth of the matter is no matter how “good” we think we are, it is still going to be as a filthy rag to Him unless and until we have the blood of Jesus covering us. He is our righteousness. He is our good enough. He is our Jehovah-Tsidkenu. 

Jehovah Shammah ~ The Lord is There ~ in You!

In Old Testament times God would dwell in the temple. But today God dwells in each of us! 

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

What an awesome thought that is. Many times I will think I wish I had lived when I could have seen the seas parted for me to walk on dry ground or a burning bush and the Lord would speak right out of it. But truthfully, I like my life in the here and now much better. We have the benefit of all of us having God with us every day. We can worship Him wherever we are. We do not have to have the church building to do so. I have had many a worship time on my porch watching the sun rise over the lake. But don’t get me wrong and think I am saying we should neglect the church. I don’t think that at all. I love my church and I love corporate worship. But I also truly love that I can have private worship with my Savior and that I don’t HAVE to have someone else go into the temple to consult with God on my behalf. I have His Spirit in me, therefore I am His temple. 

But it’s convicting too. Do you think about it? Do you think about the fact that when you leave the church building you are taking God with you wherever you go? If you are a christian then He lives inside of you. He goes with you. We can’t leave Him at home when we go out and we can’t leave Him at the door and tell Him we will be back later. This may be part of the reason that God takes it so personally when we allow things in that will destroy us and our testimony. God is sinless and if it were not for Jesus declaring us righteous by His blood which was spilled for us on the cross we could not be the temple. God could not live within each of us, because He is Holy. In 1 Peter chapter 1 it says “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (v. 16)

So in Ezekiel when he saw in His vision God returning to the temple and he said Jehovah-Shammah, The Lord is There, he was comforted and it was comforting to the Israelites that God’s presence would be with them. But we don’t have to wait for a vision. I love to see the sun shining down on our church building and to think The Lord is There, because it’s like I can see the glory of the Lord all over that building. But really, the sun is shining down on you and on me because that is where the glory of the Lord is now. If you are a Christ follower, if you have asked Jesus into your heart then Jehovah-Shammah~the Lord is there~in you! Walk with Him today. Remember He is walking right within you! 

Jehovah-Shammah ~ The Lord is There

“The circumference of the city shall be 18,000 cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord is There.” Ezekiel 48:35

Ezekiel was a prophet who saw great visions. He prophesied and saw in a vision Jerusalem being destroyed, and it happened. He also saw God return to the city of Jerusalem, the new city and He prophesied that God would be there.  This is the last verse of the book of Ezekiel and it gave hope to the Israelites. They were being held captive and they wanted to know that they would return home and that God would be there in the temple when they got there. And this was the end of Ezekiels vision of the new Jerusalem that they would return to. He was assuring them that He was seeing God return to His temple in Jerusalem. 

This name of God signified the presence of God in the future for the Israelites. It was assurance to them that God had not forgotten them. Remember that in Old Testament times they did not have the Holy Spirit with them all the time. Jesus didn’t dwell in their hearts so they relied upon God’s presence in the temple, and the priests and the law for guidance. Being held captive in Babylon it was harder for them to feel God’s presence. They needed this vision from Ezekiel to see that God had not forgotten them. They needed this hope. So to me this Jehovah-Shammah signifies hope. Hope that not only is God with me in my todays but hope that God will be with me in my tomorrows. It’s like the verse in Jeremiah that is quoted so much as well as the verses that follow. 

“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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

Jeremiah was also a prophet during these days of captivity around the same time as Ezekiel. The Israelites were looking to these prophets and the visions of a new Jerusalem and the prophecies of a future and a hope from Jeremiah were exactly what they needed. We get to cling to the future and the hope that God has for each of us too. And we get to know that the Lord will be there in our future as well as the fact that He is with us in our today. Are you in the midst of circumstances you need to change? Are you praying for different? Whatever it may be you just need different? These are your verses to cling to. You can know that God has good plans for you and your people. He has a future and a hope. Invite him in. Ask Him to be Jehovah-Shammah for you. Ask Him to be in your today, but ask Him also to be in your tomorrow so that you can know that wherever you are headed He will be there too! 

Jehovah Rohi ~ I know My Shepherd’s Voice

“But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” John 10:2-4

In ancient times there were common sheepfold in towns where sheep from many flocks were kept in the same sheepfold. A sheepfold is a pen for the sheep. So there may be flocks from several different shepherds in one pen and there was one way out and one way in. It’s my understanding that one of the shepherd would sleep at the gate of the sheepfold so as not to let anything in to harm the sheep nor to let the sheep wander out of the gate. In the morning the shepherds would come to the pen and call their sheep by name and would lead them out of the pen. Now I have often heard that sheep were dumb animals but yet they knew the voice of their shepherd. They would not follow another shepherd only the voice that they knew would protect them, guide them and lead them. In fact: 

“A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” John 10:5

My friends, I can testify that when you spend a lot of time with Jesus you begin to hear His voice and know His voice more clearly. I can remember early in my christian walk, when I wouldn’t be able to discern His voice, His leading and guidance on my life with much clarity. And I am not saying that I hear it correctly every time now, but I can say that after years of being with Him daily and having a quiet time and walking this life out with Him as my guide, I can recognize His lead much clearer than I could years ago. It is just like with your spouse or children, or close friends. If my children or spouse calls me from another phone they do not have to identify themselves. I know their voice. All they have to do is speak and I will know who they are. They could fool me quicker with a look than they ever will with their voice. Much the same way the more time I spend with Jesus, the more I know His voice in my life. I am not saying He speaks audibly but I can feel His voice. He is My Shepherd and I know His voice. 

So whose voice are you listening to? Is it Our Good Shepherd’s or is it a disguise? Is it someone who is trying to climb over the walls to gain your attention?

“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10: 9-11

The thief will try to disguise his voice to sound like Jesus, so that you will follow, but the thief will never lay down his life for you. He will just steal yours. Our Good Shepherd already has! 

Jehovah Rohi – My Shepherd seeks the lost sheep

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that’s lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:4-7

Think of the shepherd and what he will do for his sheep. The shepherd has one hundred sheep and he realizes one of his sheep have wandered away from the flock. You might think that he would not worry about the one when he still has ninety-nine. But that is not what the shepherd does. He leaves the 99 and searches for the lost sheep. The one who all he had to do was hang out with the flock. I’ve never been around sheep. But I read that they stray easily, they get distracted and then they have a hard time finding their way back. That when the sheep realizes it is lost it will actually bleat for the flock but will end up running in the opposite direction of the sound. The shepherd has to know that if he doesn’t find that sheep that it is in real imminent danger. So the shepherd leaves the 99 and searches for that lost sheep until he finds it. And when he does he rejoices over that lost sheep. 

In the same way our Shepherd will seek us out. How many times in my past have I been running away from the flock right into imminent danger. And my Lord continued to seek me out. He continued to put people in front of me. He continued to use the things surrounding me to draw me back to the flock and back to Him. I have been able to look back over my life at the times that I had wandered away from the flock. Even if only in my own mind and heart. I know there have been times when I was present, yet I was not necessarily present in my heart. But I can see how He searched for me and led me back to where my heart needed to be. This same parable in Matthew ends with this verse. 

“So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:14

One prayer you never ever have to question the will of the Father is the prayer you are praying over a lost sheep. Make no mistake God still gives us freedom to choose but He will continue to seek the lost soul. So if you have that person you have been praying for that is lost. You continue praying that God will continue seeking and He will surely do it. It is not His will to lose even one sheep. 

Jehovah Rohi ~ The Lord is my Shepherd

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1

This is the beginning line of the most famous Psalm written. It has been recited and written and prayed for centuries. But it’s not just meant to be recited and written and prayed. It is meant to be lived. 

David wrote this Psalm. David is one of my favorite people in scripture to study. That may be because when I really began to do Bible Studies and to dig deeper into scripture, he was one of the first I ever studied but I think it is really because David is so real. We have often heard it said that David was a man after God’s own heart. But when you truly study him, you begin to really know him as someone who is just real. David had many successes in his life. For goodness sake, he killed a giant of a man with one stone. He won many military battles. He was a skilled musician. He was a poet. He was a great king. But David was also a fallible man. He had an affair with Bathsheba then had her husband killed. He had a son who rebelled against him so he was not the perfect parent. He had multiple wives. David probably did as much wrong in his life as he did right. But that’s what I love so much about him. He was real. He did not lead the perfect life. But he knew the one who was perfect enough to know where to return to when he did get things wrong. 

He penned this Psalm and he started it with Jehovah Rohi ~ the Lord is my shepherd. David was a shepherd when Samuel found him and anointed him king over Israel. So one thing to note here is that David never forgot his humble beginnings. David knew that when he was a shepherd that his sheep depended on him. He knew the way a shepherd guides and cares for his sheep because he had done it himself. He had to take sheep into green pastures where they could feed and everything was good and sometimes he had to lead his sheep through rocks and hills and dark valleys to get to the green pastures. But he also knew that when he shepherded his sheep through those rocks, hills and dark valleys that he had been with them and was there to protect them. As beautiful the wording of the Psalm 23, it becomes even more beautiful when you know and realize the personal aspect that David would have been feeling when he wrote it. He knew what it was like to shepherd the sheep. He knew the love that he had had for his sheep when he was their shepherd. So he knew the love that his Father had for him because He was his shepherd. 

As I studied I came across this quote that bears repeating. 

“Psalm 23 is a masterpiece. But not a masterpiece simply to be admired. It’s a masterpiece to be lived. Because the same good shepherd who took care of David is the same good shepherd that wants to take care of you and me.” Bruce Carter ~ Valley View Church (online) 

Turn in your Bible and read the 23rd Psalm. Now read it again and personalize it. Think of the green pastures he has lead you to. And know that if your valley is dark that your shepherd is there, right there with you to protect and love you through it. 

My Rock, My Fortress, My Shield

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” Psalm 18:2

David was considered a man after God’s own heart. Yet David experienced many physical as well as spiritual battles in his lifetime. He enjoyed many blessings from God, and he also failed God on occasions. I love studying the life of David, because he was so real. While yes, he was considered a man after God’s own heart and he was in close fellowship with God, he didn’t always do everything right. But he knew God. He knew him as his fortress, as his rock, as his shield.

The definition of fortress is “a military stronghold, especially a strongly fortified town fit for a large garrison”. In ancient times fortresses were often walled off from the rest of a city and they were supplied with food, water and ammunition. They were there for protection as well as defense. David knew that when he was walking in fellowship with God he did not need to fear because God was his fortress, his place of safety. David knew this because he had experienced it. After David was anointed King it was still fourteen years before he took his place on the throne and for the majority of those years he was on the run from King Saul who wanted to kill him. David had experienced God’s protection, safety, and deliverance from Saul’s hand many times and had even had opportunity to take Saul out a couple of times but instead he acted with integrity and did not touch the Lord’s anointed one, as King Saul had also at one time been anointed to be King. 

I can honestly say that I too have known God as my fortress, my rock, my shield of safety. That is not to say that there is nothing that touches me that hurts my heart. But it is to say that I know where to run to get healing and direction and peace and safety from the things that can truly harm me.  And if and when there is something, some circumstance that seems beyond me, I know the one to retreat to when the battle gets too rough. Where do I go to get fortified, to get my nourishment and to have my wounds tended to. I run to my fortress, I hide behind the rock for a while and I get my shield ready for the battle again before I head back out to the field. 

What do you run to when the circumstances become overwhelming? Many people run to people, to relationships, or to any number of addictions ~ shopping, alcohol, drugs. Some may look at material things to satisfy and take our mind off of things. But running to our fortress is the only sure thing that will never let you down. He will satisfy and He will give comfort and He will give you peace. And then He will also give direction when it comes time to face those circumstances again. 

A mighty fortress is our God!