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Monday, November 9, 2009

Portraits of God

My latest painting work in progress, titled simply, "I AM," immerses me in worship each time I pick up a paint brush and draw crude pictographs (hieroglyphics) representing the ancient Hebrew perception of the entity we call God. Though we have manuscripts more ancient than the writings of Moses—few have given us the visual the ancient Hebrews did through their writings of a God—a Supreme Being that cares for people so deeply and passionately that He would come and take the suffering, shame and horror that humanity had coming because our father, Adam, brought sin into the earth.

This is the God I worship. He is the God I cling to in adoration. No other God died for humanity—no other God/prophet/leader took what sin required—all the way to the grave reserved for sinners and then rose again from that grave to prove there is more and that more is given to those who believe. The only requirement left for us is to believe. Once we believe, we receive the right to become the children of God (Jn 1:12). After we receive the right to become children of God, we want to know what that means. I did/do.

Ergo, my search in the ancient Hebrew Scriptures. God chose to reveal Himself to and through the ancient Hebrew people, so I consider it wisdom to find what He revealed. I still study the names by which He revealed many aspects of his nature and character. That is what the "I AM" painting is about. He said about Himself—"I Am the Lord who heals you." That name is Jehovah Rapha. He says He is the Lord who makes us holy (Ex 31:13)—it is by nothing we do on our own—He makes us holy. That name is Jehovah Qadash. There are others—many others—and by these names, we begin to know Him—the nature and character of the one true God. And so I want to know Him more by those names.

The most interesting thing about "I AM" to me, is that when He reveals to Moses, "I AM that I AM (Ex 3:14), He says, "This is my name forever." The most literal translation from the ancient Hebrew text is: I Am He Who will be—the Coming One (Bullinger).

And so today, as I put away my paints and brushes and pick up my routine work—my Monday through Friday activities—I first pick up my source for strength and encouragement (Bible) and look again at what God says about my life and the world I live in.

In Zechariah 1:7-17, the first vision comes to Zechariah the prophet. In the vision it is night. Nighttime is more frightening than the day because there is so much we can't see. In this vision, the prophet sees a man who rode a red horse and stood among the myrtle trees. Later (verse 11), the prophet describes this man as the Angel of the Lord—a designation given for the One who would come and carry the sins of the world.

This One stands among the myrtle trees in the bottom—or more literally—in the deep. It is generally agreed that the myrtles represent Israel—not the proud cedar or spreading oak—but the low growing and yet fragrant myrtle. For the most part, growing in the valleys—the myrtle is out of the world's gaze. And yet, it is with the lowly that the One true God seems most at home with and certainly drawn to. The myrtles, which the Angel of the Lord is seen with are growing in the bottom—literally sinking in the water. It would seem this state of Israel could not go lower or be less esteemed.

A remnant returned to Jerusalem after the seventy year Babylonian captivity. Not many desired to return to the burned out mess that Jerusalem was after the Babylonians razed it and then burned it so that there was no hint of the brilliant city of the great king left in it. Those straggling few who returned fell into depression and inactivity because of persecution. The vision given to Zechariah symbolized the Lord's attention—He knew where they were, how they were and what they needed. And more importantly to me—He was there. The Angel of Jehovah, the second Person in the Trinity, in His love redeemed and carried them (Is 63:9)—and now, He is among them, in fulfillment of His word, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you and the rivers shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, they will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (Is 43:2-3)." And didn't He prove it? When Daniel's friends were in the fire—He was there with them—and the fire did not set them ablaze.

And so as I read about Him—I realize how much He deserves our praise and adoration. His faithfulness surpasses anything we've seen or understood before. His love is everlasting—this is not just something He has said, but it is what His character has revealed.

The desire of my heart is to paint His portrait so beautifully, that you will leave encouraged and strengthened. The reality is—He never leaves us nor forsakes us. He is our constant companion and help. He understands where we are and is not satisfied leaving us there. Oh yes, He is beautiful, and He is worthy of all our worship. Blessed are all who know Him—who really know Him.

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