ripple effect: vacaville

d119 Just Another Brick in the Wall
August 18, 2007, 12:03 pm
Filed under: aaron, artaxerxes, cyrus, darius, ezra, god, haggai, hanani, nehemiah, sanballat, schecaniah, tattenai, zechariah, zerubbabel

Read Nehemiah 2:1-20.

[Stuff we’re skipping:

* So…the guys who were living in Jerusalem at the time wanted to help build the Temple, so they went to Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel saw through their efforts, though, because he realized that they didn’t really worship I AM–they just wanted a cool temple. From that point on, the “locals” harassed the Jews while they rebuilt the Temple. After the reign of king Cyrus, during the reign of Artaxerxes, they tried to use politics to stop the building. They sent a letter to the king saying that the Jews had a history of rebellion–so why let them rebuild their city? Artaxerxes was interested in keeping the “peace” and ensuring his income, so he put a stop to the rebuilding.

* But then two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the Jews to continue building; so they did. Then Tattenai the “local” governor asked them who they thought they were, doing this; but God made it so that they could continue building until they got fresh word from the new king, Darius. He he he…so Darius ends up reviewing Cyrus’ decree and tells Tattenai that it should stand (so that the Jews can pray for him and his household). Also, he says that the “locals” should even send their money to the capital of Persia–just send it to the Jews to help with the rebuilding. Oh, and also, make sure they have all the animals they need for sacrifices. He he he…gotta love it.

* They ended up finishing the Temple and having a huge sin offering (12 scapegoats for all the tribes of Israel). Then they celebrated the Passover. Finally, Ezra (a priest who was a direct descendant of Aaron) came from Persia to teach and lead the people. He was known as an expert in the Law of Moses. Darius gave Ezra anything he wanted for his priestly duties. Also, he allowed Ezra to create a Jewish court-system to regulate the land. In other words, it was God’s way or the highway now in Jerusalem and the outlying region. (What I love is that this book, written by Ezra, then takes the first person narrative, and Ezra thanks God for doing this for him.) We get a list of people who went back with Ezra too. Ezra called for Levites to join him, and they all fasted on the journey for safety (which made sense because we are talking about a band of unarmed priests with a TON of money on them). They finally arrived, gave the money to the priests and made sacrifices.

* Huge problem: Ezra comes back to realize that most of the people (including the leaders) had continued to intermarry with the neighboring people (not followers of I AM). So, Ezra mourned and prayed in front of everyone. The people were inspired. A man named Shecaniah spoke for the people, saying that this evil could be undone–they just needed to get rid of their foreign wives and children. So, they did. This ends the book of Ezra.

* Then in Nehemiah, during the reign of Artaxerxes (which means we’re backtracking a little), we learn of a guy named Nehemiah who was asking about how things were going with the returned exiles in Jerusalem. His brother, Hanani, told him that the walls and gates of Jerusalem were torn down. Nehemiah prayed and fasted for days, weeping and confessing the sins of his people…because he knew that God had allowed this to happen because of the sin of Israel. We are left with one sentence: “Now I was cupbearer to the king.”]

1. Being the cupbearer, Nehemiah has access to the king! He can actually do something about this…
2. Notice that Nehemiah always had a good attitude, so when he was sad, Artaxerxes noticed. Do we always have such a pleasant appearance? Should we?
3. You’d think that, as the cupbearer, Nehemiah’s job was to not be noticed; so when the king starts making remarks about him, I’d be petrified too!
4. Nehemiah just goes for it, though. Why should he be happy when his city is in ruins?
5. Notice that Nehemiah prays as soon as Artaxerxes puts the ball in his court. I’m sure it wasn’t some out-loud, elaborate thing. I’m sure it was silent and quick. But it was a prayer nonetheless. Do you ever do that?
6. Nehemiah had his chance, and he wasn’t going to blow it. He had thought out the solutions to this problem, and he shared them with the king. He’s an organized guy. And, because of this, the king respected him. Man…does that mean that I have be organized?
7. Uh oh…this “local” guy, Sanballat, doesn’t seem to like the Jewish people much.
8. Interesting that he didn’t instantly share with everyone what he was there for. He just silently inspected the situation and prayed. Maybe there’s something to learn in that too. Maybe we let the cat out of the bag too often and should, instead, continue to submit our plans to God.
9. And then he rallies the troops to build, after all that prayer.
10. You know, I don’t think Sanballat is just going to go away…


d66 I Am Woman, Hear Me Stab

Read Judges 4:4-24.

[Stuff we’re skipping:

* To end the book of Joshua, the Israelites bury the bones of Joseph, and Eleazar (Aaron’s son) dies.

Then we get into the book of Judges…at the end of Joshua, everyone’s ready to stand up for God; unfortunately, that doesn’t last without Joshua’s leadership. The book of Judges is about the leaders who God used to rescue Israel from their enemies (even though their sin is what put them in the position to need to be rescued).

* The tribe of Judah took on the inhabitants of Jerusalem and won, driving out the bad guys (and cutting off all the toes and fingers of the king?).

* Caleb offered his daughter, Acsah, to the man who would defeat another town. A guy named Othniel did, so he got to marry her.

* The tribe of Judah didn’t clear out the hill country because the men there had iron chariots.

* The tribe of Benjamin didn’t clear out the bad guys but instead decided to live with them.

* The descendents of Joseph didn’t kill one guy and his family because he helped them destroy a city.

* The tribe of Manasseh wouldn’t beat their enemies, so they let them stay as slaves.

* The tribe of Ephraim didn’t beat their enemies, so they let them live there.

* The tribe of Zubulun made slaves out of their enemies.

* The tribe of Asher did such a bad job of driving the people out, that the Canaanites dominated the land of Asher…same for the tribe of Naphtali.

* The tribe of Dan couldn’t even “move in”–they had to live in the hill country because of their enemies.

* An angel from the Lord told the Israelites that they had disobeyed God by not clearing out the land of their enemies and their false gods. So…God said they would have to suffer the consequences.

* A new generation came up that didn’t care about following God…they went with the locals and followed Baal and Ashterah. From that point on God fought AGAINST the Israelites in battle.

* Because God still had compassion on His people, when they cried out, He gave them a “judge” to lead them against their enemies. But the cycle of disobedience continued despite the efforts of the judges.

* First Judge: Othniel. He defeated Cushan-rishathaim, an evil king who had tormented Israel for eight years. After his victory, Israel had peace for 40 years. But then he died…

* Second Judge: Ehud. Israel got stupid again and was defeated by Eglon, the fat king of the Moabites, for 18 years. Ehud went to “deliver taxes” to Eglon and gave him a secret message, a dagger to his fat belly!!! Ehud then rallied the troops and brought peace for 80 years.

* Third Judge: Shamgar. He killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad. Wow.]

Why should the guys have all the fun…

1. OK, so the Israelites got dumb again and were under Jabin and General Sisera for 20 years. Why must the Israelites continuously disobey God?
2. So, Deborah is a judge; and she tells Barak to go to war with Sisera. He says only if she goes with him. Why?
3. Guy’s, there is no honor in letting a woman do the work that God calls YOU to do. In the midst of this story about the power of women, there is also a charge for manliness.
4. God controls the battle. He throws them into confusion. Why was God involved in this one and not the others?
5. I love Jael. That’s all I want to say. She gave him milk and stabbed him in the head with a TENG PEG!?! Yesss… And Deborah’s prophesy came true. She killed Sisera, not Barak.

What do you think about:


d51 The People Rebel
May 28, 2007, 6:01 pm
Filed under: aaron, caleb, god, joshua, moses, numbers

Read Numbers 14:5-45.

1. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces. Was this out of submission to God, grief, or were they ducking to avoid rocks?
2. Then Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes (a sign of grief) and spoke up. “The land is good. God is good. If He wants us there, it’s going to happen.” Nice message. Strong faith. The people are theirs for the defeating. God is in control. I love these guys. I know a pair of brothers named Joshua and Caleb. I always loved that.
3. Then the people pick up stones. You thought I was kidding? Good thing God shows up. He’s ready to toss this group again and give Moses new people to lead. Wow.
4. Moses steps up again for his people. He basically says that if the people died in the desert, people will think it’s because God wasn’t mighty enough to bring them through alive. Good logic. And, it is about God’s glory. Moses begs for mercy. I love the verse about God being “slow to anger.” Maybe because I know that I probably would make a less-patient God (Allah?) angry all the time.
5. What God does here is amazing. He makes it so that none of the doubters will get into the Promised Land, only Joshua and Caleb. Everyone else will have to wander in the wilderness for the rest of their lives…until they die. What a crazy thing! I’ve thought about this so many times as a youth pastor, the idea that there are generations (or even classes of students) that God would pass over in order to get to the people who will follow Him. Man. What do you think about that?
6. Here’s irony. Since the old people were scared that their “little ones” would get eaten by the big bad giants, they are going to be the ones who will end up conquering the big bad giants. How’s that for God flipping the script?
7. The kids will suffer for the faithlessness of their parents. They will have to wander in the desert until all the older generation dies. Wow. 40 years wandering in the desert for a trip that should have only taken a couple of weeks. Boy, we make following God complicated sometimes, don’t we?
8. And all the guys who misled the Israelites died of the plague right then and there.
9. Then, as if it wasn’t enough, the people decided that NOW they didn’t want to stay in the desert and that they wanted to seize the promised land. Wow. Moses warned them that God wasn’t with them anymore. But, they didn’t care. They were routed by the people. I can understand this story, in the sense that, there have been times in my life when God told me what to do…I knew what to do…but I didn’t do it. Then, I tried to make it work on my own. Of course, I couldn’t make it work. What was worse is that I would blame God for it not working. This story just reminds me of how ludicrous that is. I want to live a life where I obey God the first time.

d49 Miriam and Aaron Oppose Moses
May 26, 2007, 9:26 pm
Filed under: aaron, god, miriam, moses, numbers

Read Numbers 12:1-16.

[What we’re skipping:

* What God commanded Moses on top of Mt. Sinai about–burnt offerings, grain, offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, guilt offerings, and priests and the offerings.

* Aaron and his sons were consecrated; and God accepts Aaron’s offering, but He kills two of Aaron’s wicked sons.

* More instructions about–clean and unclean animals, purfication after childbirth, leprosy, cleansing lepers, cleansing houses, bodily discharges, the Day of Atonement, the place of sacrifice, eating blood, sexual relations, God’s holiness, loving your neighbor, keeping God’s laws, child sacrifice, being holy, priests’ holiness, acceptable offerings, the Sabbath, the Passover, the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Feast of Booths, lamps in the tabernacle, bread for the tabernacle, punishment for blasphemy, “an eye for an eye,” the Sabbath Year, the Year of Jubilee, redemption of property, kindness to the poor, redeeming a poor man, blessings for obedience, punishment for disobedience, and vows. Like I said, it’s al instructions, for the most part, so if you’re interested in a particular thing, look it up.

*As far as the beginning of Numbers goes…well, it’s called “Numbers” for a reason; and we are skipping–a census of Israel’s warriors, the exemption of the Levites, where everyone’s supposed to camp, Aaron’s sons, duties of the Levites, redemption of the firstborn, duties of the Kohathites, unclean people, confession and restitution, a test for adultery, the Nazirite vow, Aaron’s blessing, offerings at the tabernacle’s consecration, the seven lamps, the cleansing of the Levites, retirement of the Levites, celebrating the Passover, the cloud covering the tabernacle, the silver trumpets, Israel leaving Sinai, the people complain (again), elders are appointed to aid Moses, and finally quail and a plague. Like I said, it’s important stuff; but, a lot of it doesn’t further “the plot.” But this does…]

1. OK…so Moses married a foreign woman, which was a no-no, right?
2. Then Miriam and Aaron take that as an opportunity to get a little too bit for their britches by saying that Moses isn’t only one God can talk to directly. (That might be true; but, at the time, it’s just Moses.) So…do you think that Moses marrying the foreign woman opened Moses up for more criticism?
3. God chews out Miriam and Aaron for saying that they were on the same level as Moses. He basically says that they might get visions from God, but Moses gets it all “uncut.” He even says that Moses gets to “see” Him. Can you understand why God is a little peeved here?
4. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, God striked Miriam with LEPROSY! Whoah. What do you think about that?
5. Then Moses asked for her to be healed, and God tells him to put her in timeout for a week outside the camp. Do you think she learned her lesson?
6. What is the lesson?

d47 Holy Cow!?!?
May 24, 2007, 3:58 pm
Filed under: aaron, exodus, god, moses

Read Exodus 32:1-29.

[We are skipping a lot of stuff. Most of it is from the set of instructions that God gave Moses on the top of Mt. Sinai. All important stuff, but things that we might take a closer look at in subsequent years:

* Laws about altars.
* Laws about slaves.
* Laws about restitution.
* Laws about social justice.
* Laws about the Sabbath and festivals.

* God confirms His covenant with Moses and the nation of Israel.
* Moses takes a collection to be used for the making of a sanctuary.
* God instructs the nation of Israel how to make: “the ark of the covenant,” the table for bread, the golden lampstand, the tabernacle itself, the bronze altar, and the court of the tabernacle.
* Also, it instructs how to supply: oil for the lamp and priests’ garments.
* There’s a section on how to ordain and consecrate priests.
* There are more commands concerning: the altar of incense, the bronze basin, the census tax, and the anointing oil and incense.
* God appoints artists, craftsmen, and priests.
* And there’s another reminder about the importance of keeping the Sabbath.]


Even though there are a couple of chapters in between, we’re still in real-time because all those things were things that God taught Moses on the top of Mt. Sinai (oh…and while we’re at it…this is also the time that people believe God taught Moses all the things to record in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).

1. Moses took awhile. The people freaked. They weren’t patient. They needed something certain to follow. Uh oh… What do you think about the people here? Can you blame them?
2. Check out Aaron taking the lead here. Does this seem like priestly behavior?
3. I can understand human nature in so many parts of the Bible: why this dude had sex with that girl, why that guy got mad and did something dumb, why that guy was scared…but I can never understand why these guys thought that a gold cow was the God in the cloud, the fire, the manna, the everything…maybe He is that God who’s up on that mountain in the smoke? Anyway…no comment on these guys. They just drive me nuts.
4. Aaron’s a tool.
5. Wow…how about an inside look at the heart of God. God is so fuming mad at the people that He tells Moses to duck because He’s about to smoke them all and make a new nation for Moses! Why do you think God is so angry?
6. Whoah! OK…controversy…can man change God’s mind? It appears that Moses convinces God to lay off. He says that it would look bad to the Egyptians. He also reminds Him of the promises He made to Abraham. Either way, God backs off. Did God change His mind because of Moses? Or is there something we’re not seeing here?
7. “The writing of God.” I wonder what that looked like.
8. Was Joshua with Moses the whole time?
9. OK…how would you like Moses to be your pastor? He made the people take the gold calf, grind it into powder, and made the people drink it! Whoah! That’s a lot worse that getting your mouth washed out with soap.
10. Boy, Aaron blew it. And all he could come up with was “They made me do it.”
11. So…here’s where it gets really wild. Moses asks, “Who’s with me?” And the descendants of Levi say, “We are.” And he says, “Prove it.” So they go and kill everyone who is close to them. I’m not kidding here. After killing 3,000 people, Moses says, “OK, you’re priests now.” Why do you think the Levites had to do what they did?

d45 He’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain
May 22, 2007, 5:25 pm
Filed under: aaron, exodus, god, joshua, moses

Read Exodus 19:1-25.

Questions, questions, questions…somehow I’ve been stuck in summarizing mode.

1. God was on top of a mountain?
2. How about God using poetry…He says that He brought the people out “on eagle’s wings.” A cool picture from a poetic God.
3. So, here’s the deal: obey God and Israel will be a treasured possession (a kingdom of priests). Is that deal still in place for us today? How so?
4. Moses coming down from the mountain reminds me of a youth retreat. Moses tells them what God said, and all the people say, “Sure, we’ll do that.” Why is it so easy to SAY we are going to follow God as opposed to DOING it?
5. God says He is going to let the people hear for themselves by coming in a thick cloud. Do we crave for God to be more visible?
6. The people have to make themselves ready for God coming. Why do you think that is? Do we have to do the same to approach God now?
7. Sign at Mt. Sinai: “Staff off mountain!” Why do you think God made the consequences so harsh for someone who touched the mountain when He came down?
8. “Do not go near a woman”? Hmm…apparently God didn’t want the people to be having sex on the third day. Why do you think God wanted the men to stay away from the women?
9. Who’s blowing the trumpet?
10. OK…imagine being Moses, climbing up this thundering, smokey mountain by yourself. Whoah!
11. God wants to make sure that Moses secures the perimeter. No one besides Moses and Aaron are allowed to come up. Why? (the answer is there…so this isn’t a guess)

d38 "Can Pharaoh come out and plague?"
May 15, 2007, 4:39 pm
Filed under: aaron, exodus, god, moses, pharaoh

Read Exodus 7:15 – 9:7

How can you not love this part of the Bible? It’s so miraculous and mysterious.

1. Wow…that would be crazy for a river to turn to blood. All the fish would be dead. And it would stink! Wow…Moses wasn’t making red Kool-Aid.
2. So…it wasn’t just the Nile. Aaron spread his staff and it went everywhere. Insane.
3. How did the magicians pull that one off? Hmm…and, of course, Pharaoh’s heart was hard. This was all part of God’s plan.
4. Why frogs? I’ve heard before that it was to mock one of the Egyptian gods that was represented by a frog. Not sure. Still, this would have been freaky too.
3. So…how did the magicians make so many frogs? Anyway, it’s interesting that they could make frogs; but, apparently, they couldn’t get rid of them. Otherwise, why would Pharaoh ask for Moses to let up?
4. Interesting thing…Pharaoh could get rid of the frogs at any time…but he asks for tomorrow? Why do you think he wanted to live amongst frogs any longer than he had to?
5. OK…so the frogs didn’t just disappeared…they croaked (I couldn’t help myself). Dead frogs everywhere. Oooh…that had to stink. And then…Pharaoh goes back on his promise to let them go because he doesn’t see a problem anymore. Do we do that? Do we beg God for solutions to our problems (promising we will change)…and then, once the problem has been “fixed,” go back to our old ways?
6. Then the dust turned to gnats. The magicians couldn’t make gnats! Ha! Even they believed, but Pharaoh couldn’t.
7. Ooh…a miracle with a twist. Flies everywhere but Goshen. That should prove a point, right?
8. Pharaoh gives in, sort of. He lets them offer sacrifices in Egypt. Moses says that they have to do it out of Egypt. He lets them go. How interesting is this…Pharaoh asks Moses to pray for him. Why?
9. Moses says he’ll pray to get rid of the flies later and not to trick him. It didn’t work. Pharaoh changed his mind.
10. Dead livestock, but only dead Egyptian livestock. Crazy. I like that Pharaoh sent investigators to see if they Israelite livestock had not died. It hadn’t. He still didn’t let them go, though. Wow.

Which plague do you think is the coolest? The weirdest? The sickest?