Josiah Justice: Chapters 6,7 and Bruises

September 6, 2011 at 7:29 pm (Josiah Justice) (, , )

In today’s excerpt, Josiah and his team experience an ancient custom that some of you (whether you knew it at the time or not) have already participated in.

If this is your first time to stop by the blog, you’ve landed right in the middle of a story.  If you’d  like to start reading from the beginning, click here.

  Chapter 6

Covenant

My normal life as I knew it no longer existed.  My days as a regular boy were over.  In a matter of a week or so I had been stripped of my childhood innocence and given the keys to a brand new life.  One without all of my favorite things: video games and toys and television.  But, one with purpose.  One with adventure.  One with power beyond measure.  Stepping into my destiny was going to be really difficult, but it felt so….so right! 

Kodesh woke me up bright and early as he had a lot planned for my first day on the job.  “Load up Josiah.  We’ve got to pick up the rest of the team.”

As each member of the Spirit-led Gang squeezed into my elevator, I watched them fidget.  We were all very excited, but also nervous and even a little scared.  Kodesh had recently invited Grampy to become the newest member of our team.  Though Grampy had made it very clear that he was coming to learn rather than to chaperone, we all found great comfort in travelling with an adult.

Grace spoke up and broke the silence.  “So, where are we headed to Boss?”

“The palace.”  Kodesh’s voice was calm and steady.

“The what?”  Gabby and I both spoke at the same time.  Joy giggled.

“Uh…the last time I checked, there weren’t any palaces around here.”  My attempt at being funny fell flat.  No one laughed.

“Lesson one is on trust.  You will not be able to step out and do mighty things in faith unless you fully trust Yahweh.  You will not be able to fully trust Him until you understand His commitment to you. Today you will witness covenant.”  Kodesh did not offer any extra input.

“Like a marriage?”  I asked, hoping he would give an explanation.

“Marriage is in fact a covenant, though few people realize it.   A covenant is a binding agreement between two individuals or even two groups of people.  Each party makes promises to the other one.  A covenant is sacred.  According to the Bible, it cannot be broken under any circumstances.”

“Well that can’t be right, because married people leave each other all the time.”  Joy struggled with the concept.

“That’s true Joy.  The idea of covenant has little value in the world you live in.  Your modern world treats a covenant casually and honors it only when it is convenient for them.  But that’s not how it used to be and it is definitely not how it is supposed to be.  In Biblical days, a covenant was much more than a legal agreement between two people.  Covenants lasted for many generations after they were made.  It didn’t matter if circumstances changed over time or not.  People kept their word.  They did not violate the contract they had entered into.”

The elevator came to a stop.  I looked up.  Two young men stood in front of us.  One was dressed in beautiful garments.  His appearance, posture, and mannerisms were clearly those of royalty.  The other young man looked as if he was a day laborer.  He was rugged and common and he held a staff in his hand.  There was nothing special about him.

“Who are they?”

Grampy spoke up.  “Jonathan and David…from the Bible.”  He recognized them from the story.  “Jonathan was the son of King Saul who would likely lead his father’s kingdom one day.  He had it all.  Anything money could buy!  Fame, power, prestige.  He was educated and refined.  But David was just a shepherd boy with no education.  He had no possessions, nothing of value.  To the world, he was a nobody.”

“So why are we here?  What does this have to do with any of us?”  Grace spoke aloud the question we were all wondering deep inside. 

“It has everything to do with you.  Whether you realize it or not, if you are a Christian then you are ‘in covenant’ with Yahweh God.  You must actually understand that covenant and what all it involves before you can benefit from it.   A Biblical covenant has many steps.  Watch and learn.  When two people agreed to enter into a covenant friendship they would choose a time and place to meet up.  Now, you must remember that the Jewish way of life is filled with symbols.  Most of the people back in the Bible days wore an outer garment which symbolized who they were as a person – their very being.”

We watched as Jonathan removed his elegant princely robe and placed it around David’s shoulders.  Then David removed his tattered and worn cloak and gave it to Jonathan.

“What are they doing?”  Gabby whispered, her eyes round with wonder. 

“They are exchanging robes.  By this they are saying, ‘I give you my life – all that I am and all that I have.’  David is now free to walk in Jonathan’s garment.  He has the right to take on Jonathan’s identity.”

Our attention fell back to the two young men who were continuing in their pledge.  They were now exchanging their belts. 

“What’s the belt all about?” I asked.

“They fastened their weapons of defense onto their belts.  A man might carry a bow and arrows, or a knife, or maybe even a large sword on his belt.”  Grampy said. 

“What?  Why would he give up his weapons?   That doesn’t make sense to me.   If he gives up his belt, then he gives up his ability to protect himself from an attack!  He’s defenseless.  That’s not too smart!” 

“That’s right Josiah.  He is handing his defense over to his covenant partner.  When he gives up all of his weapons, not only is he making himself incredibly vulnerable, he is also choosing to forfeit his own ability to hurt that friend.  This action says, ‘I’m handing over anything I could ever use to hurt you in any way.  I am at your mercy.  If I am attacked, I can do nothing – unless you choose to defend me.’  In the same manner, when his covenant partner surrenders his own belt he, too, is promising to fight his friend’s battles.  It’s a huge commitment.”

Grampy spoke up.  “A missionary came to our church once and shared a story about African tribes.  She told us that whenever two people would enter into a friendship, they would make a cut on their arm deep enough to scar.  If they ever got into any sort of trouble with another person or tribe, all they had to do was raise that arm up and show the scar.  It clearly represented that they were not on their own but had someone else who would stand up and fight on their behalf.  It was like saying, ‘If you’re gonna mess with me, then you’re gonna have to face my friend, too!’”

“That is so cool!”  I had never really thought there was anything exciting or even interesting about Jonathan and David before.  My Sunday school teacher had mentioned that they loved each other like brothers.  But this…this was much, much bigger.  These guys were pledging their lives for each other.  That’s huge!  People just don’t do that anymore. 

I was jolted out of my thoughts as Joy let out a shriek of disgust. The two men now stood before us ankle-deep in blood.  They had taken a young ram and slaughtered it.  The creature had been cut into two equal sections.  The sections lay side by side on the ground with just enough space in between them for the two men to stand.  As bizarre as this ceremony seemed to me, a modern twenty-first century kid, I knew it was sacred.  I stood in awe and continued to watch the ancient tradition. 

Just then Jonathan spoke.  Kodesh translated for us.  “Today I die to myself.  I live to bless you David, my covenant partner.  Every decision I make from this day forward will be with you in mind.  I will seek what is best for you and not what brings me gain.”

David loyally repeated the very same words to Jonathan.  And then they both spoke at once.

“What did they just say, Kodesh?”  Joy asked.

“May God do this and even more to me if anything but death separates you and me.”

“What does that mean?”  Joy squinched up her tiny sweet face. 

“They are agreeing that the covenant they are entering into is so important that the punishment for breaking it should be death.” 

It seemed that we all gasped for air at once.  Death?  Yikes!  A covenant was certainly not something you entered into lightly.  As the two young men stood in the now cold pool of animal blood they each made a cut close to their palm.  They rubbed the cuts together until their blood mixed and then each spoke again.

“What are they doing now?”  I whispered, forgetting that they could not hear me. 

“They are exchanging names.  Jonathan has given David the authority to use his name when needed.  There are no limits on what he can do with this power.  It is as if he, too, is the royal son of King Saul.   Not that Jonathan would ever need it, but David has also given him the right to act on his behalf.” 

David grimaced and Jonathan muffled a groan as the two rubbed salt and hyssop into their freshly cut wrists. 

“Why in the world would anybody do that?”  Grace bluntly remarked. 

“It causes the wound to scar and keeps it from fading away in the future.”  Grampy explained.  “The scar is like a reminder of the covenant they have made.  Every time they look at it, they will be reminded of the rights and the responsibilities that they received by entering into that agreement.”

Kodesh continued to explain the covenant.  “The book of Leviticus reveals that life is in the blood.  The people believed that once their blood mingled it could never again be separated.  Likewise, Jonathan and David’s lives became one – never to be separated.  It didn’t matter how they felt or how circumstances in their lives changed.  The scar was a visible reminder that grounded them in the reality that they were in a binding agreement unto death.”

“Awesome!”  I couldn’t hold my excitement in any longer.  “Who would have thought there were blood brothers in the Bible?  Wait ‘til I tell Will.  He’s not going to believe that  it’s really real!

The men were now talking again, still standing in that disgusting blood!  YUCK!  Before I could ask, Kodesh translated that they were promising their assets to one another.  This included their property and money…just about anything with value.  In my opinion, poor Jonathan was getting the short end of the stick because David truly had nothing to give.  Well, Jonathan did already have everything his heart could possibly desire, so maybe it wasn’t that bad for him after all…  Kodesh went on to inform us that the covenant partners were receiving each other’s liabilities as well. 

The two finally stepped out of the blood and began to wash their feet.  They shared a meal together breaking bread and sharing a cup of wine as lifelong covenant partners.  We watched in silence as they celebrated.  When they finished eating, they planted a small tree near the slaughtered animal and sprinkled blood on it as a memorial of the new covenant relationship that existed between them. 

I watched the two men and their little tree grow smaller and smaller as Kodesh sent the elevator in a new direction.

“Where are we going now?”  The girls asked at once. 

“Another time, another blood covenant.”  Kodesh was anxious to reveal more to us.

I quickly spoke up.  “I can’t.  I mean…I can…but not now.  You guys go ahead.  I’ll catch up later.  Would that be alright Kodesh?”

Knowing exactly what my struggle was, Kodesh agreed and quickly returned me to my room.  He made one last remark before he left.  “Just focus on Him Josiah – you’ll get there.”

   Chapter 7

My Upper Room

I sat on my bed and fluffed up the pillows.  Leaning back against them, I drew my knees up to my chest and breathed in deeply.  I needed to think about everything that I had just seen.

“Okay, I can do this.”  I thought.  “It’s simple.  Just go to my Upper Room.  Yahweh said He’d be there waiting on me.  Just gotta get there…somehow, but how?  Oh yeah, Kodesh said to focus.”

I took two more deep breaths and squeezed my eyes shut.  No distractions.  Just thinking.  Thinking about the God of the Universe.  He’s sitting on a throne.  He’s standing up.  He’s walking toward me.  He’s reaching out His hand toward me….

Something was happening.  My body was beginning to gently rock.   I opened my eyes.  I was scared.  “What are you scared for, silly?”  I argued with myself.

“I don’t know.  I’m just scared of not knowing.”

“Focus, focus, FOCUS Josiah!  You do NOT want to mess this up!”   I thought.  A warm tingling sensation began to spread through me.  I reached out and took hold of His hand.  I was still sitting on my bed at home, but I was also there!  And I didn’t even have to fly!  It wasn’t far away like I thought, but right here.  But how could I be at two places at one time?  Who cares!  I made it to my Upper Room – ON MY OWN!  Yahweh was there grinning that amazing grin at me.  He walked over and gave me a huge bear hug. 

“It’s about time you came!”  His words were kind and gentle.  “I’ve been waiting on you, little man.  Did you enjoy your visit?”

“I’m not sure.  It was kinda…well, weird!  Kodesh explained what they were doing, but I don’t really understand what it has to do with me.”

“It has everything to do with you.  You see, I like to reveal truth through pictures and stories.  It makes it a little easier for humans to understand.  Jonathan and David are a model of the two of us.”

“Us?  What do you mean?”  I was totally confused at this point. 

“You and I entered into that very same covenant the day you asked my son, Yeshua, into your heart.”

“We did?”

“Yes, Josiah.  Before I created the world, I already knew that mankind would not meet up to my holy standard.  I knew that Adam and Eve would choose to sin and that all of their offspring would be born forever cursed with a sin nature that would eternally separate them from me.  Knowing that on his own man could never escape the spiritual death that sin brings, I set my own plan into motion to redeem him from that sin.  Because it is impossible for sinful man to approach holy God, I made an agreement with my perfect sinless son on your behalf.  He and I ‘cut covenant’ together for your sake.  He took your rightful place when He died on that cross.  You received His rightful place of eternal life with me.”

“Whoaaaa.  That’s deep.”  My brain started to buzz inside.  “But why did He have to die?”

“All actions have consequences.  They may be good or they may be bad.  The consequence that results from sinning is death.  There’s not another choice.  A price must be paid for sin.  Blood must be shed to cover it.  My son, Yeshua, was without sin.  He didn’t have to do anything.  But He chose to pay the price for your sins by shedding His own innocent blood on the cross.  By doing this, He made atonement for your sins, causing you to become righteous and acceptable in my sight.”

I squinted my eyes and squished up my nose.  My brain hurt.  It was bulging with information and thoughts itching to be entertained.  God’s son, Yeshua, crowned prince of the entire universe, left Heaven in all its splendor and glory to come and redeem me from my sin?  Wow!  That was a lot to ingest.  The whole concept didn’t make sense.  Why would He do that?

Yahweh spoke up.  “Because I love you.  Just as Jonathan gave up his royal identity to take on that of a simple commoner, my perfect son gave up His life for you and all sinners.  As it is written in the book of Isaiah, He clothed you with the garments of salvation.  He took on your robe of self-righteousness – a filthy rag – and wrapped you with His own pure and holy robe of true righteousness.  Yeshua died your death so that He could give you His eternal life.  You are now to take on His identity and nature as a child of the King.”

My mind was soaking His words up like a dry sponge.  I could not yet even begin to comprehend the notion that I had actually exchanged lives with the very son of God. 

Yahweh moved on.  “Josiah, can you see that we have also exchanged belts?  If you’ll read Deuteronomy 20:4 in your Bible, you’ll see that I, the Lord your God, am He who goes with you.  I will fight your battles.  I will deliver you from your enemies.  I will bring you safely to everlasting life.  It is so very important that you understand this.  I don’t want you to spend your whole life believing that you have to do it on your own.  Nothing is further from the truth.  I am your covenant partner.  You can trust me to defend you in any situation.  I will never leave or forsake you.”

Peace trickled down over me and soaked deep within.  There’s nothing better than knowing that you have a big strong dad that’s going to take care of you no matter what. 

Yahweh grinned.  His eyes lit up and I could tell that He was pleased with my thoughts.  Of course He knew them as soon as they formed in my mind – just like Kodesh.  He continued.  “You should also realize that you have access to my name.  Obviously there is great power in using my name and you should do it carefully and wisely.”

“I can just use your name without permission?  That doesn’t seem right to me.”  I was a little cautious.  

“You are my son and you are learning to follow in my footsteps.  From now on, you’ll be doing the work of your Heavenly Father.  In your natural world, when a son matures enough to help out with his father’s business, he is allowed to make decisions and act on behalf of his father.  Any transaction he makes in his father’s name is considered valid.  It is the same in the spiritual world.  If you are not sure of what you can and cannot do, read your Bible.  My children can do everything that my son Yeshua did….and more!  Seek me first and if it is my will, you will be able to do mighty things with authority.  If you act in your own flesh, my power will not be released.”

A thick lump began to swell in my throat.  “But…what if I get it wrong?  What if I think I heard you but I really didn’t and I try to use your name and power and nothing happens?”  My mind was quickly filling with scenarios of failed attempts at using God’s name.

“So what?”  Yahweh’s carefree answer instantly dissolved the panic that was invading me deep within. 

“You aren’t going to be upset if I blow it?”

“There is no such thing as a mature birth.  In the natural and in the spiritual, everybody has to start out as a baby.  All things require practice.  You’re going to make mistakes.  Lots of them.  That doesn’t mean you give up though.  When a little child learns to walk, he will not be able to do it perfectly the very first time he tries.   He’s going to fall.  Does he stop trying and settle to crawl for the rest of his life, convinced that he is not capable of walking?  Of course not!  He’ll fall time after time – only to get right back up and try again.  And one day, he’ll get it!  What parent would get upset at their small child for falling?  Instead, the parent is there close by, encouraging that child and strengthening him and pushing him on to excellence.  It is the same with me.  I’ll be proud that you tried in the first place.”

“I don’t know how good I’ll be at leading a team.  You know, the teachers at my school don’t think I’m good for much.  They say I’m “unreachable.”’

“Their eyes are closed.  They do not see now, but one day they will.  Josiah, you must not care about what the people of this world think.  Just stay focused on me.”

“I will.  It’s just… sort of hard.  I mean, it’s great when I’m right here with you, but that isn’t always the case.  So many things are fighting for my attention…it’s hard to stay focused on you.”

“That’s why I left a reminder with you – a scar.”

“A scar?  Really?” 

“My Holy Spirit is the seal of the blood covenant.  He’s the ‘scar,’ or the constant reminder that you and I are in a covenant relationship together.”

“Kodesh.”  I whispered.  “He’s always with me.”  I hadn’t fully realized his purpose in my life until now.

“That’s right, Josiah.  You’re never alone.  When the enemy comes to you, don’t be afraid to show him your “scar.”  When he sees the power of the Holy Spirit operating in your life, he’ll know exactly who your covenant partner is.  He has no choice but to run, because he knows he doesn’t stand a chance against me.”

I flopped over on my stomach and began to think on all that I had just learned – straight from the mouth of God!  The knowledge that I was marked as His lifetime covenant partner permeated my entire being.  Warmth bubbled up from the base of my throat at the collarbone.  I didn’t even get up to check it out.  I knew without a doubt that Yahweh had forever branded me.  Spending time with Yahweh was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  He was so kind and loving and so very real.  The sweetness of His presence soothed me from the inside out.   Within minutes, I was drifting into a deep, sweet sleep.

 Bruises

“Jo-siah!”  Grace marched into my room and plopped down on my bed.  “What are you doing asleep right now?   It’s only two-thirty.”  She shook me by the shoulder, her loud voice tearing me from the amazing place of rest I had entered into.  “You’re not supposed to have food in your room, you know.  Mom’s gonna freak out if she finds any ants in here.”

I peeled my eyes open, squinting at the bright light, and reached out to grab the Twinkie wrapper lying beside me on the bed.   Crumpling it in my fist, I let out a dramatic groan.  “Did you need something Grace?”

“As a matter of fact, I do.  I need to talk to you.”

“Talk.”

“Well, there’s this girl at school.”

“And?”  I impatiently prompted her to get on with the story.

“Well, she needs help.  Someone is hurting her.”

“Hurting her like how?”  I sat up, my interest peaking.

“Abusing her.  Beating her or something.  I don’t know.  She’s got bruises from head to toe.”

“So what’s the big deal?  Call CPS.  Let them handle it.”

Grace shook her head in frustration.  “No, you don’t get it.  It’s not that simple.”

“How can it not be simple? Abused child.  Child Protective Services.  Problem solved.” 

“Josiah!  If you’d just listen, I’m trying to tell you!”  Clearly irritated, Grace threw up her hands in disgust.  “Apparently, I’m the only one who can see the marks.  No one else seems to know that they’re there.  They don’t exist in the physical realm…just the spiritual.”

I sighed deeply.  “Now that is a problem.  Yahweh obviously revealed them to you for a reason.  You’re going to have to get into her world and find out what’s going on.  Can you tell how severe it is?”

“Pretty bad.  I can tell by their coloring that the bruises are in various stages of healing.  Whatever’s causing them has been going on for quite a while.”

“Alright.  You’ve got the go ahead.  Let me know if you need the team to step in with assistance.”

“Thanks, Josiah.  I have a feeling that there is much more to this.”  Grace turned and headed out the door.  “I’m going to go talk to her tomorrow.”

“Keep me posted!”  I shouted after her.

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If You Don’t Know Me By Now…

July 17, 2011 at 11:04 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , )

 

 Ironically, I actually wrote these words for those who DO know me.  Those who have walked through each and every up and down of my life for the past ten years.  Those who are willing to drop everything to help, pray, encourage, love, or listen.  Today I offer a little glimpse into my home away from home where everybody is truly family, Remnant Church.  So, for those of you who have always wondered but haven’t mustered up the nerve to ask, this is what I (as a part of Remnant) am all about!

When friends and acquaintances hear that we’re part of Remnant, the “Hebrew Roots” church in town, they never hesitate to ask in a half whisper, “Remnant Church…Are you Jewish?”

I can’t help but to grin in response. No, We’re not Jews. We just have a true understanding of our Christian heritage. God in His sovereignty chose the Jewish people as His own. He set them apart from all other people groups-that they might testify of His integrity and give credence to the absolute authenticity of His holy scriptures. While His redeeming plan of salvation from sin was originally intended for the Jews alone, the Bible makes it very clear in Romans 11 that we, the non-Jewish believers, were “grafted” into the work that God is doing in and through the Jewish people. We did not replace them, but were graciously included into the covenant God made with them. That’s REALLY good news for us!

Because most Christians today aren’t even aware that a vital connection once existed between Christianity and Judaism, our friends are usually shocked to learn that 2000 years of Jewish history, culture, language, and customs literally form the root of what they know today to be Christianity!

At Remnant, we study the Jewish roots of Christianity to understand our Savior. Jesus was a Jew born into a Jewish family in the Jewish village of Bethlehem in the land of Israel. He lived life and ministered to others as an observant Jew. He read the Jewish scriptures, spoke Hebrew, wore Jewish clothes, ate only biblically kosher food, kept the Jewish Sabbath, celebrated the Jewish feasts, followed Jewish customs, and kept every single law of God. Whew!

Our goal at Remnant is not to “act Jewish” but to pattern our lives after Jesus and to become more like Him and those in the Bible that faithfully aligned themselves with His commandments and character. Over the years, we’ve found that the more our lives line up with the Bible, the more “Jewish” we appear!

Many are curious to know, “What’s the vision. What’s Remnant all about then?”

Well, like Barnabus, Remnant sets out to encourage others, building them up to reach their full potential and God’s purpose for their life.

We’re Caleb. People of faith in a GREAT God. And like the woman with the issue of blood and the centurion whose great faith Jesus marveled at, our confidence rests not in our own abilities but in our understanding of just who God is and what He is capable of.

We are Lazarus, once dead and decaying from sin -raised to walk a new life with Christ here on earth. And like His sister Martha, we are learning that “busyness” of every sort, even serving others and doing “good things,” can become a barrier to knowing Jesus personally and intimately.

Remnant Church is David expressing His praise and worship unrestrained and unashamed before the Lord.

We are Jeremiah, Samuel, and Josiah-our youth equipped and trained to hear from and follow the Lord at any cost.

We are the Hebrew people, meeting up with God in the feasts for scheduled one on one appointments with Him.

Like Mary Magdalene we’ve been miraculously freed from the powers of darkness.

Remnant is Noah, committed to a lifetime of faithful obedience to God, doing our best to live a righteous life in the midst of an unbelieving generation. Our reverential fear of God is greater than our fear of man and anything he may think about or do to us.

We are John the Baptist, continuously pointing others to the Messiah.

Like Joseph and Daniel, we believe that God speaks through dreams and visions and often reveals Himself and His plans during the night watch.

We’re the hands of Jesus reaching out to the broken, the unaccepted, the unlovely.

Remnant Church is Elijah-finding God NOT in the midst of the windstorm, earthquake, or fire but instead in a gentle whisper.

We are Peter experiencing the Lord’s provision in nets that are overflowing when necessities are scarce.

We’re Solomon seeking Godly wisdom above all else.

We are the disciples, learning to live naturally supernatural lives. We choose to be empty vessels for God to use as He pleases. In doing so, we are privileged to utilize the very same power and authority that raised Jesus from the dead to release healing and miracles to those in need.

We’re the New Testament church meeting together in our homes, breaking bread, celebrating Bible prophecies that have already come to pass and anticipating the fulfillment of those that are soon to come.

Like Mary, we desire to lavish our love on the Savior. And like Mephibosheth, we can bask in the Father’s love- knowing that we are in a forever binding blood covenant relationship with Him.

Remnant Church is Esther raised up at a specific time in history for the specific purpose of advancing God’s kingdom here on earth.

Because Almighty God specifically chose Israel to express Himself to the world, we choose to love, support, encourage, pray for, respect, and speak the truth about the Jewish people. Our desire is to be among those who bridge the gap between Christian and Jew and to live our lives in such a way that others hunger to know the God that we serve.

That’s what Remnant’s all about!

http://www.remnantchurchonline.org/

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No Price Too High To Pay

October 19, 2010 at 1:41 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

So I know that salvation from sin is a free gift from God.  It can’t be bought.  It can’t be earned.  It’s simply there for the taking.  Being close to God, however, comes with a price.  A high price.  A price I am finally willing to pay because a ticket to Heaven isn’t enough for me anymore.  Playing church isn’t enough for me anymore.  Doing the absolute best I can in my own strength…and still failing…isn’t enough.  I’ve come to find that every bit of my “religion” is worthless without relationship with the Creator.  And the “relationship” that I’ve convinced myself that I’ve had up until now has been nothing more than one-sided.  So I’ve set my heart on the real deal—to intimately know and actively experience the all-knowing, all-powerful God of the Bible every single day of my life all day long.  I’ve got a long road ahead of me…for hearing His voice and knowing His ways require dying to the desires of self and living each day for Him-things I am only beginning to put into practice.  Every choice, every action, every thought is a test-a step away or a step closer to Him.  Even when I have the strength to choose right and draw near to Him, the light of His holiness searches out the darkness hidden deep within my soul and purges me of it.   It’s an ongoing process.  It’s ugly.  It’s messy.  It’s uncomfortable.  And it’s down right difficult.   But nobody ever said it would be easy.  Jesus himself repeatedly reminded His potential followers to count the cost before following Him. 

Well, I’ve counted the cost and I’ve determined that there is no price too high to pay.  Why?  My answer might come as a surprise.  It’s simply that I’ve come to an awareness that God is not at all who I thought He was.  My greatest moments with Him to date are merely a taste of what’s in store for those who love Him.  With each step closer to Him, I find that He is immeasurably above and beyond everything I have ever been taught.  So I find myself consumed with the desire to learn who He truly is and who I  truly am as a child of the one true King. 

A wise man recently told me that we learn best through teaching.  So with each new discovery, I teach my children what I’ve learned.  I chew it up, simplify it, and pour into them what has been poured into me.  Today I’d like to share something with you that I chose to teach my son Josiah through a written story form.  Though it is written at a child’s level, it holds great truth for all ages.  I pray that you’ll encounter God as you experience an ancient tradition and how it still applies to our lives today.

Please note the following characters & who they represent:                                                  

The story is written in first person through the eyes of  Josiah

Kodesh = the Holy Spirit

Yahweh=God

Yeshua=Jesus

Joy, Grampy, Grace, and Gabby=Josiah’s team members

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Chapter 6

Covenant

My normal life as I knew it no longer existed.  My days as a regular boy were over.  In a matter of a week or so I had been stripped of my childhood innocence and given the keys to a brand new life.  One without all of my favorite things: video games and toys and television.  But, one with purpose.  One with adventure.  One with power beyond measure.  Stepping into my destiny was going to be really difficult, but it felt so….so right! 

Kodesh woke me up bright and early as he had a lot planned for my first day on the job.  “Load up Josiah.  We’ve got to pick up the rest of the team.”

As each member of the Spirit-led Gang squeezed into my elevator, I watched them fidget.  We were all very excited, but also nervous and even a little scared.  Kodesh had recently invited Grampy to become the newest member of our team.  Though Grampy had made it very clear that he was coming to learn rather than to chaperone, we all found great comfort in travelling with an adult.

Grace spoke up and broke the silence.  “So, where are we headed to Boss?”

“The palace.”  Kodesh’s voice was calm and steady.

“The what?”  Gabby and I both spoke at the same time.  Joy giggled.

“Uh…the last time I checked, there weren’t any palaces around here.”  My attempt at being funny fell flat.  No one laughed.

“Lesson one is on trust.  You will not be able to step out and do mighty things in faith unless you fully trust Yahweh.  You will not be able to fully trust Him until you understand His commitment to you. Today you will witness covenant.”  Kodesh did not offer any extra input.

“Like a marriage?”  I asked, hoping he would give an explanation.

“Marriage is in fact a covenant, though few people realize it.   A covenant is a binding agreement between two individuals or even two groups of people.  Each party makes promises to the other one.  A covenant is sacred.  According to the Bible, it cannot be broken under any circumstances.”

“Well that can’t be right, because married people leave each other all the time.”  Joy struggled with the concept.

“That’s true Joy.  The idea of covenant has little value in the world you live in.  Your modern world treats a covenant casually and honors it only when it is convenient for them.  But that’s not how it used to be and it is definitely not how it is supposed to be.  In Biblical days, a covenant was much more than a legal agreement between two people.  Covenants lasted for many generations after they were made.  It didn’t matter if circumstances changed over time or not.  People kept their word.  They did not violate the contract they had entered into.”

The elevator came to a stop.  I looked up.  Two young men stood in front of us.  One was dressed in beautiful garments.  His appearance, posture, and mannerisms were clearly those of royalty.  The other young man looked as if he was a day laborer.  He was rugged and common and held a staff in his hand.  There was nothing special about him.

“Who are they?”

Grampy spoke up.  “Jonathan and David…from the Bible.”  He recognized them from the story.  “Jonathan was the son of King Saul who would likely lead his father’s kingdom one day.  He had it all.  Anything money could buy!  Fame, power, prestige.  He was educated and refined.  But David was just a shepherd boy with no education.  He had no possessions, nothing of value.  To the world, he was a nobody.”

“So why are we here?  What does this have to do with any of us?”  Grace spoke aloud the question we were all wondering deep inside. 

“It has everything to do with you.  Whether you realize it or not, if you are a Christian then you are ‘in covenant’ with Yahweh God.  You must actually understand that covenant and what all it involves before you can benefit from it.   A Biblical covenant has many steps.  Watch and learn.  When two people agreed to enter into a covenant friendship they would choose a time and place to meet up.  Now, you must remember that the Jewish way of life is filled with symbols.  Most of the people back in the Bible days wore an outer garment which symbolized who they were as a person – their very being.”

We watched as Jonathan removed his elegant princely robe and placed it around David’s shoulders.  Then David removed his tattered and worn cloak and gave it to Jonathan.

“What are they doing?”  Gabby whispered, her eyes round with wonder. 

“They are exchanging robes.  By this they are saying, ‘I give you my life – all that I am and all that I have.’  David is now free to walk in Jonathan’s garment.  He has the right to take on Jonathan’s identity.”

Our attention fell back to the two young men who were continuing in their pledge.  They were now exchanging their belts. 

“What’s the belt all about?” I asked.

“They fastened their weapons of defense onto their belts.  A man might carry a bow and arrows, or a knife, or maybe even a large sword on his belt.”  Grampy said. 

“What?  Why would he give up his weapons?   That doesn’t make sense to me.   If he gives up his belt, then he gives up his ability to protect himself from an attack!  He’s defenseless.  That’s not too smart!” 

“That’s right Josiah.  He is handing his defense over to his covenant partner.  When he gives up all of his weapons, not only is he making himself incredibly vulnerable, he is also choosing to forfeit his own ability to hurt that friend.  This action says, ‘I’m handing over anything I could ever use to hurt you in any way.  I am at your mercy.  If I am attacked, I can do nothing – unless you choose to defend me.’  In the same manner, when his covenant partner surrenders his own belt he, too, is promising to fight his friend’s battles.  It’s a huge commitment.”

Grampy spoke up.  “A missionary came to our church once and shared a story about African tribes.  She told us that whenever two people would enter into a friendship, they would make a cut on their arm deep enough to scar.  If they ever got into any sort of trouble with another person or tribe, all they had to do was raise that arm up and show the scar.  It clearly represented that they were not on their own but had someone else who would stand up and fight on their behalf.  It was like saying, ‘If you’re gonna mess with me, then you’re gonna have to face my friend, too!’”

“That is so cool!”  I had never really thought there was anything exciting or even interesting about Jonathan and David before.  My Sunday school teacher had mentioned that they loved each other like brothers.  But this…this was much, much bigger.  These guys were pledging their lives for each other.  That’s huge!  People just don’t do that anymore. 

I was jolted out of my thoughts as Joy let out a shriek of disgust. The two men now stood before us ankle-deep in blood.  They had taken a young ram and slaughtered it.  The creature had been cut into two equal sections.  The sections lay side by side on the ground with just enough space in between them for the two men to stand.  As bizarre as this ceremony seemed to me, a modern twenty-first century kid, I knew it was sacred.  I stood in awe and continued to watch the ancient tradition. 

Just then Jonathan spoke.  Kodesh translated for us.  “Today I die to myself.  I live to bless you David, my covenant partner.  Every decision I make from this day forward will be with you in mind.  I will seek what is best for you and not what brings me gain.”

 David loyally repeated the very same words to Jonathan.  And then they both spoke at once.

“What did they just say, Kodesh?”  Joy asked.

“May God do this and even more to me if anything but death separates you and me.”

“What does that mean?”  Joy squinched up her tiny sweet face. 

“They are agreeing that the covenant they are entering into is so important that the punishment for breaking it should be death.” 

It seemed that we all gasped for air at once.  Death?  Yikes!  A covenant was certainly not something you entered into lightly.  As the two young men stood in the now cold pool of animal blood they each made a cut close to their palm.  They rubbed the cuts together until their blood mixed and then each spoke again.

“What are they doing now?”  I whispered, forgetting that they could not hear me. 

“They are exchanging names.  Jonathan has given David the authority to use his name when needed.  There are no limits on what he can do with this power.  It is as if he, too, is the royal son of King Saul.   Not that Jonathan would ever need it, but David has also given him the right to act on his behalf.” 

David grimaced and Jonathan muffled a groan as the two rubbed salt and hyssop into their freshly cut wrists. 

“Why in the world would anybody do that?”  Grace bluntly remarked. 

“It causes the wound to scar and keeps it from fading away in the future.”  Grampy explained.  “The scar is like a reminder of the covenant they have made.  Every time they look at it, they will be reminded of the rights and the responsibilities that they received by entering into that agreement.”

Kodesh continued to explain the covenant.  “The book of Leviticus reveals that life is in the blood.  The people believed that once their blood mingled it could never again be separated.  Likewise, Jonathan and David’s lives became one – never to be separated.  It didn’t matter how they felt or how circumstances in their lives changed.  The scar was a visible reminder that grounded them in the reality that they were in a binding agreement unto death.”

“Awesome!”  I couldn’t hold my excitement in any longer.  “Who would have thought there were blood brothers in the Bible?  Wait ‘til I tell my Mom.  She’s not going to believe it!”

The men were now talking again, still standing in that disgusting blood!  YUCK!  Before I could ask, Kodesh translated that they were promising their assets to one another.  This included their property and money…just about anything with value.  In my opinion, poor Jonathan was getting the short end of the stick because David truly had nothing to give.  Well, Jonathan did already have everything his heart could possibly desire, so maybe it wasn’t that bad for him after all.  Kodesh went on to inform us that the covenant partners were receiving each other’s liabilities as well. 

The two finally stepped out of the blood and began to wash their feet.  They shared a meal together breaking bread and sharing a cup of wine as lifelong covenant partners.  We watched in silence as they celebrated.  When they finished eating, they planted a small tree near the slaughtered animal and sprinkled blood on it as a memorial of the new covenant relationship that existed between them. 

I watched the two men and their little tree grow smaller and smaller as Kodesh sent the elevator in a new direction.

“Where are we going now?”  The girls asked at once. 

“Another time, another blood covenant.”  Kodesh was anxious to reveal more to us.

I quickly spoke up.  “I can’t.  I mean…I can…but not now.  Y’all go ahead.  I’ll catch up later.  Would that be alright Kodesh?”

Knowing exactly what my struggle was, Kodesh agreed and quickly returned me to my room.  He made one last remark before he left.  “Just focus on Him Josiah – you’ll get there.”

Chapter 7

My Upper Room

I sat on my bed and fluffed up the pillows.  Leaning back against them, I drew my knees up to my chest and breathed in deeply.  I needed to think about everything that I had just seen.

“Okay, I can do this.”  I thought.  “It’s simple.  Just go to my Upper Room.  Yahweh said He’d be there waiting on me.  Just gotta get there…somehow, but how?  Oh yeah, Kodesh said to focus.”

I took two more deep breaths and squeezed my eyes shut.  No distractions.  Just thinking.  Thinking about the God of the Universe.  He’s sitting on a throne.  He’s standing up.  He’s walking toward me.  He’s reaching out His hand toward me….

Something was happening.  My body was beginning to gently rock.   I opened my eyes.  I was scared.  “What are you scared for, silly?”  I argued with myself.

“I don’t know.  I’m just scared of not knowing.”

          “Focus, focus, FOCUS Josiah!  You do NOT want to mess this up!”   I thought.  A warm tingling sensation began to spread through me.  I reached out and took a hold of His hand.  I was still sitting on my bed at home, but I was also there!  And I didn’t even have to fly!  It wasn’t far away like I thought, but right here.  But how could I be at two places at one time?  Who cares!  I made it to my Upper Room – ON MY OWN!  Yahweh was there grinning that amazing grin at me.  He walked over and gave me a huge bear hug. 

“It’s about time you came!”  His words were kind and gentle.  “I’ve been waiting on you, little man.  Did you enjoy your visit?”

“I’m not sure.  It was kinda…well, weird!  Kodesh explained what they were doing, but I don’t really understand what it has to do with me.”

“It has everything to do with you.  You see, I like to reveal truth through pictures and stories.  It makes it a little easier for humans to understand.  Jonathan and David are a model of the two of us.”

“Us?  What do you mean?”  I was totally confused at this point. 

“You and I entered into that very same covenant the day you asked my son, Yeshua, into your heart.”

“We did?”

“Yes, Josiah.  Before I created the world, I already knew that mankind would not meet up to my holy standard.  I knew that Adam and Eve would choose to sin and that all of their offspring would be born forever cursed with a sin nature that would eternally separate them from me.  Knowing that on his own man could never escape the spiritual death that sin brings, I set my own plan into motion to redeem him from that sin.  Because it is impossible for sinful man to approach holy God, I made an agreement with my perfect sinless son on your behalf.  He and I ‘cut covenant’ together for your sake.  He took your rightful place when He died on that cross.  You received His rightful place of eternal life with me.”

“Whoaaaa.  That’s deep.”  My brain started to buzz inside.  “But why did He have to die?”

“All actions have consequences.  They may be good or they may be bad.  The consequence that results from sinning is death.  There’s not another choice.  A price must be paid for sin.  Blood must be shed to cover it.  My son, Yeshua, was without sin.  He didn’t have to do anything.  But He chose to pay the price for your sins by shedding His own innocent blood on the cross.  By doing this, He made atonement for your sins, causing you to become righteous and acceptable in my sight.”

I squinted my eyes and squished up my nose.  My brain hurt.  It was bulging with information and thoughts itching to be entertained.  God’s son, Yeshua, crowned prince of the entire universe, left Heaven in all its splendor and glory to come and redeem me from my sin?  Wow!  That was a lot to ingest.  The whole concept didn’t make sense.  Why would He do that?

Yahweh spoke up.  “Because I love you.  Just as Jonathan gave up his royal identity to take on that of a simple commoner, my perfect son gave up His life for you and all sinners.  As it is written in the book of Isaiah, He clothed you with the garments of salvation.  He took on your robe of self-righteousness – a filthy rag – and wrapped you with His own pure and holy robe of righteousness.  Yeshua died your death so that He could give you His eternal life.  You are now to take on His identity and nature as a child of the King.”

My mind was soaking His words up like a dry sponge.  I could not yet even begin to comprehend the notion that I had actually exchanged lives with the very son of God. 

Yahweh moved on.  “Josiah, can you see that we have also exchanged belts?  If you’ll read Deuteronomy 20:4 in your Bible, you’ll see that I, the Lord your God, am He who goes with you.  I will fight your battles.  I will deliver you from your enemies.  I will bring you safely to everlasting life.  It is so very important that you understand this.  I don’t want you to spend your whole life believing that your have to do it on your own.  Nothing is further from the truth.  I am your covenant partner.  You can trust me to defend you in any situation.  I will never leave or forsake you.”

Peace trickled down over me and soaked deep within.  There’s nothing better than knowing that you have a big strong dad that’s going to take care of you no matter what. 

Yahweh grinned.  His eyes lit up and I could tell that He was pleased with my thoughts.  Of course He knew them as soon as they formed in my mind – just like Kodesh.  He continued.  “You should also realize that you have access to my name.  Obviously there is great power in using my name and you should do it carefully and wisely.”

“I can just use your name without permission?  That doesn’t seem right to me.”  I was a little cautious.   

“You are my son and you are learning to follow in my footsteps.  From now on, you’ll be doing the work of your Heavenly Father.  In your natural world, when a son matures enough to help out with his father’s business, he is allowed to make decisions and act on behalf of his father.  Any transaction he makes in his father’s name is considered valid.  It is the same in the spiritual world.  If you are not sure of what you can and cannot do, read your Bible.  My children can do everything that my son Yeshua did….and more!  Seek me first and if it is my will, you will be able to do mighty things with authority.  If you act in your own flesh, my power will not be released.”

A thick lump began to swell in my throat.  “But…what if I get it wrong?  What if I think I heard you but I really didn’t and I try to use your name and power and nothing happens?”  My mind was quickly filling with scenarios of failed attempts at using God’s name.

“So what?”  Yahweh’s carefree answer instantly dissolved the panic that was invading me deep within. 

“You aren’t going to be upset if I blow it?”

“There is no such thing as a mature birth.  In the natural and in the spiritual, everybody has to start out as a baby.  All things require practice.  You’re going to make mistakes.  Lots of them.  That doesn’t mean you give up though.  When a little child learns to walk, he will not be able to do it perfectly the very first time he tries.   He’s going to fall.  Does he stop trying and settle to crawl for the rest of his life, convinced that he is not capable of walking?  Of course not!  He’ll fall time after time – only to get right back up and try again.  And one day, he’ll get it!  What parent would get upset at their small child for falling?  Instead, the parent is there close by, encouraging that child and strengthening him and pushing him on to excellence.  It is the same with me.  I’ll be proud that you tried in the first place.”

“I don’t know how good I’ll be at leading a team.  You know, the teachers at my school don’t think I’m good for much.  They say I’m “unreachable.”’

“Their eyes are closed.  They do not see now, but one day they will.  Josiah, you must not care about what the people of this world think.  Just stay focused on me.”

“I will.  It’s just… sort of hard.  I mean, it’s great when I’m right here with you, but that isn’t always the case.  So many things are fighting for my attention…it’s hard to stay focused on you.”

“That’s why I left a reminder with you – a scar.”

“A scar?”  I began examining my body for any new markings.

“My Holy Spirit is the seal of the blood covenant.  He’s the ‘scar,’ or the constant reminder that you and I are in a covenant relationship together.”

“Kodesh.”  I whispered.  “He’s always with me.”  I hadn’t fully realized his purpose in my life until now.

“That’s right, Josiah.  You’re never alone.  When the enemy comes to you, don’t be afraid to show him your scar.  When he sees the power of the Holy Spirit operating in your life, he’ll know exactly who your covenant partner is.  He has no choice but to run, because he knows he doesn’t stand a chance against me.”

I flopped over on my stomach and began to think on all that I had just learned – straight from the mouth of God!  The knowledge that I was marked as His lifetime covenant partner permeated my entire being.  Warmth bubbled up from the base of my throat at the collarbone.  I didn’t even get up to check it out.  I knew without a doubt that Yahweh had forever branded me.  Spending time with Yahweh was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  He was so kind and loving and so very real.  The sweetness of His presence soothed me from the inside out.   Within minutes, I was drifting into a deep, sweet sleep.

How incredible that we can be lifetime COVENANT partners with Almighty God! 

  Any thoughts? 

 

 

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