Boundaries are important in every facet of life. This is something I am constantly reminded of during my day-to-day encounters. I had yet another reminder as my dog Max was nearly bit by an unleashed uncontrolled dog. The dog owner apologized as per usual, but this wasn’t the first time this very same dog came after mine as we took our daily walk. The question that continues to be posed to me every time I encounter a “free” dog is the same one—if we love someone or something, should we not want what we love to be protected with boundaries?
For some, there is this old saying that if we love something, we let it go—that if it loves us it will return to us. That is a wonderful saying; however, there is more to that statement. The real question is how we love first. Yes, if we love something—with a love like God demonstrated—then the freedom thereafter follows. It would mean that just as God loved, we love—and it would mean that as God gives us free will, then we respect each person (or dogs) free will thereafter. But with every relationship there should be boundaries, expectations, an order. This is biblical. This is loving. This is what God did and does still today. If we truly love something, we would want the protection. Being free without the protection is not love. It’s folly. It’s ludicrous.
When we look at the Bible, we see covenants. This was a way for relationships to have clear understandings of expectations and boundaries. Kings did this with nations. People did this with other people. God did this with His people and His covenant is still in place with us even today. This is something we should continue if we want to function with harmony and order. This means dogs have suitable containment and leashes. This means having expectations and boundaries for relationships – family members, friendships, dating/spouse relationships. As parents, we give children a set of rules and permissions because we love our children and want the best for them. This is actually freedom. With all relationships, when we have these perimeters, we have a hedge of protection over what matters to us. Yes, there will be times people, and dogs, will overstep the boundaries and we should want to respond with grace and truth. In the end, love wins. Let us be a people of love. Let us be a people who speaks clearly, loves deeply, act in wisdom, and live for His glory!
“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:5-11 [ESV]
Jesus gave His life so that we can be free. We are free from every kind of sin. Jesus gave His life so that we can be cleansed. Because He carried all of our sins, because He paid the penalty of our sin, we are redeemed. We are cleansed by His cleansing blood. He made the atonement. He paid the price. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, we are made righteous through faith. Because of Jesus, we have the opportunity to be God’s very own people.
When God created man, He created man to live with Him. He walked with Adam and Eve before the Fall. After the Fall, God still had a heart for His very own people. With Abraham, He made covenant. He promised blessing and descendants and land. As the descendants multiplied, the Israelites were His very own people; however, they continued to go astray. Every time they fell away, God brought them back. Every time they went against God, He forgave them and showed them mercy.
Today, God wants you to be His very own. He has offered you freedom. He has offered you cleaning. He has offered you a new life. He loves you. Take the step today to reach back to the One Who always has His arms reaching towards you.
“He gave His life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us His very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” – Titus 2:14 [NLT]
In Nehemiah 10, the people are agreeing to a covenant. A covenant is something we see many times in the Bible. A covenant is also known as a partnership, an alliance. I always like to consider it as a promise which outlines a relationship’s boundaries. When we look at a covenant between God and His people, we can see that it is a spiritual agreement.
The process of entering into a covenant is interesting. It was something pagans participated in, as well as the Jewish people. First, it is important to note the pre-ceremony actions. This is a time when the different sides discussed terms. We see this happening in Genesis 15 between God and Abraham. There is also a time of representative selections. With regard to the Abrahamic Covenant, God and Abraham were the representatives. During the covenant process, there is typically an exchange of belts, weapons, or robes. Then there is the walk unto death part of the process. This is where the people walk around the sacrifice and basically say, “Do so to me as has been done to this animal if I break this covenant.” We see God doing this with Abraham in Genesis 15:17, as the smoking fire pot and flaming torch pass through. There is a pronouncement of blessings and curses, an exchange of names, and a covenant meal to share as part of the covenant sealing process. We cannot forget the seal of the covenant, where we have a sign of the covenant that will be remembered. For Noah, it was the Rainbow. For Moses, it was the Sabbath.
It is awesome to study about covenants, but it is most important for us to understand these covenants with the vantage point of the New Covenant. Remember friends, we entered into a New Covenant. Jesus is our representative (Son of Man), God’s representative (Son of God), and He was the sacrifice (Lamb of God). He took off His robe of glory to come to us, and we now have His righteousness (Philippians 2:5-7). Jesus’ walk unto death was His walk from Gethsemane to the Cross. The sign of the New Covenant is a circumcised heart (Romans 2:28-29). As you share in the Lord’s Supper, and one day as you share in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, you are sharing the covenant meal. Today, thank God for the New Covenant, and most important, for our Representative and Sacrifice, Jesus Christ.
There are moments when God is leading us in a direction and we hesitate because we are uncertain of the direction. The “what ifs” and other questions go through our mind. Many times we experience this type of situation even when we are given clear direction. I can only imagine how it was for Abraham with no direction—only a promise.
The Lord told Abraham, or Abram, to leave his country and his family and go “to the land that I will show you.” So he was going to land that he didn’t even know anything about, not even a name or small piece of information. It was all about trusting God, trusting Him even when the road ahead could not be seen.
Perhaps Abraham did not know where the road would lead, but he had a promise. He had a promise from the Lord. We too might not see the road too far ahead, but we also have a promise. And a promise from God can be taken as truth. He is the ultimate promise keeper. May your faith be strong like Abraham—may you walk forward even when the road is hard to see, trusting that God has a great plan and He is faithful.
“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’” – Genesis 12:1 [NLT]
It is difficult to live with someone. Growing up you might find it a struggle to get along with your siblings. In college you might find it hard to be a coinhabitant with particular roommates. Then one day there comes marriage and more interesting situations. You might not get the curtains you want hung. You might have to deal with someone who is an early bird while you like to sleep in till lunch.
In Genesis, God told Abram to “live entirely before (Him).” What it means is to live in the presence of God. This means you are constantly aware that His is with you. This means that you faithfully walk with Him. This means you serve Him faithfully. The second part says “live to the hilt.” This means to live a blameless life—to be perfect.
You might think it is difficult to live a blameless life; however, the first part gives the way to maintain the second part. If you live entirely before God, you will no doubt live a blameless life. If you accept Christ and walk with God, you are considered blameless. His blood paid for you to be blameless. So it is not a difficult thing—by His strength, by His righteousness, by His work on the Cross—you are perfect through Him. Like Abram, we need to live ENTIRELY before Him. How? One step at a time. One moment at a time. Keep your eyes on Him.
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, God showed up and said to him, ‘I am The Strong God, live entirely before me, live to the hilt! I’ll make a covenant between us and I’ll give you a huge family.’”
-Genesis 17:1-2 [MSG]
God wants to be your God. Isn’t that awesome? God offers us the greatest blessing—Himself! How great is our God? How blessed are we?
In the Old Testament we read about the Tabernacle. It was God’s way of creating a way for His presence to dwell on earth in the midst of His people. Later Solomon built the Temple and God’s glory went into the Temple. Disobedience caused God’s glory to depart from the Temple (see Ezekiel 10), but God had other plans.
In John 1, we read that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (ESV). Once again God sent up a tent. The Tabernacle was back. Jesus walked the earth. After Jesus was crucified and rose again, He sent us the Advocate, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit—to dwell within us. We became the temple. And one day Revelation promises that God’s glory will fill the entire earth. He wants to be your God. How awesome is that?
“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” – Genesis 17:7-8 [NIV]
Joshua assembled everyone together at Shechem and the covenant was renewed. As you read Joshua 24, you will notice the word “I” is used a lot during the discussion. I took. I gave. I sent. I brought. I destroyed. I made. I rescued. All of this action, all from God. The people needed this reminder. The people needed it put before them.
We need this reminder too. If you read Joshua 24:2-15, you will see that it says “I gave” a total of eight times. Consider this today. Consider what God has given you today, this week, this month, this year. Better yet, look at this list. Remind yourself of something for each one. Today let us remember what the Lord has done for us. Let us thank and praise the great I AM.
There were different offerings given to the Lord including the Grain Offering. The Grain Offering was to show honor to God. Recently when I was reading Leviticus 2, I read about what was involved with the Grain Offering. There was choice flour, olive oil, and frankincense. But there was something else. Something else was added to the Grain Offering. Salt.
The salt was used to season the Grain Offering. That might sound strange to us because we think of salt as a seasoning for food that we will eat. Why would a person salt an offering that was going to be given to God? This salt was to remind the people of God’s covenant with them. Salt symbolized preservation. Salt symbolized healing. God offers us preservation and healing. This salt reminded people that God was active in their lives. He was active and he was offering preservation and healing and restoration.
Today we are still offered preservation and healing and restoration through Christ. Like salt, God can penetrate our lives and preserve them. He can offer us healing. He can offer us eternal preservation. But have you added the salt? Have you allowed God to penetrate your life? Are you allowing Him to be active in your life?
“Season all your grain offerings with salt to remind you of God’s eternal covenant. Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings.” – Leviticus 2:13 [NLT]