Sometimes the most innocuous questions can lead to fantastic answers. Whenever I read the Bible, I expect to learn something. The pursuit of knowledge is a many-colored coat that requires a humble and teachable spirit. When we seek answers, we have to be prepared to receive the myriad of answers available to us. We then have to choose the one in the bouquet that looks best in the light of the Holy Spirit. We cannot mock those like us who are also on this journey even when their grasping hands are holding on to the wind. We can but learn, and then hope in our learning, to inform others of what we have discovered to help them on their way in our shared pilgrimage.  

Unicorns?

For as many years that I have been a Christian, I have read through Exodus and pondered, often briefly, how there could be porpoises in the wilderness. If this question seems like it’s coming from the left field, then allow me to provide some context.

In Exodus 25, the Lord tells Moses to collect an offering from the people to build the tabernacle. As we read through the list of items, one of them may stand out, depending on the Bible translation you are reading. 

ram’s skins dyed red, porpoise skins, acacia wood.  

Exodus 25:5 (NASB)

The NIV uses the term, “durable leather” in place of porpoise skins. However, when I first started reading the Bible, I started reading the 1984 version of the NIV translation, which used the term, “sea-cows.” It may seem odd (it does to me!) that this unusual detail would stick out in my mind over so many years. As I was wrapping up Exodus today, I paused and investigated this sea-cow phenomenon and why the NIV changed the translation to durable leather. The footnote in the NIV states that it could be “the hides of large aquatic mammals.” They’ve chosen to use the term “durable leather.” 

Stay with me now, I wouldn’t be talking so much about durable leather if I didn’t find out something interesting. The odds are your Bible translation might say something different than mine. Out of 27 different translations, I found 13 different descriptions of what God told Moses to use. From goatskin and badger skin to dolphins, sea cows, and porpoises, it’s unclear as to whether or not the skin that was used came from something on land or sea. The outlier’s for these different translations used a color to describe the skin used. Either blue or violet. One translation, the Literal Standard Version says this:

and rams’ skins made red, and tachashim skins, and shittim wood.

Exodus 25:5 (LSV)

The problematic word being translated is “tachash.” This could be a porpoise. Translators don’t really know what the word means, which is why there are so many different translations for this word. In my hunt for enlightenment, I came across some Jewish commentators who had sundry ideas regarding the meaning of Tachash. This is where it gets interesting.

The Talmud has three different ideas regarding Tachash as some sort of animal. It was an animal known for the color of its skin (violet or blue). It was the fur of an ermine imported from elsewhere or some other clean animal found in the wilderness. Rabbi Hoshaya speculated that the Tachash was an animal created by God for one purpose. To be used as covering for the tabernacle. He described this animal as a creature with a single horn. Possibly a unicorn.

I read through several different articles and sorted through sundry questions regarding the meaning of the word tachash and would invite you, if you’re interested, to research it as well. I really enjoyed this article since it covered a lot of what I read elsewhere. 

Angels

Since I seemed to be delving into the mythical today, I thought I’d share some thoughts about this verse from Acts.

“You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”

Acts 12:15 (NIV)

Some people have read this verse and thought it confirmation that people turn into angels when they die. Please allow me to bring some clarification to this issue, and shed some possible insight into something else we can learn from this.

There was a common Jewish belief that every true Israelite had their own guardian angel. If this angel happened to manifest itself in the sight of humans, it did so in the form of the person it was guarding. In the case of Acts 12:15, that would have been Peter. Therefore, when the people said, “It must be his angel,” they were talking about Peter’s guardian angel. 

There’s something to be learned from the response of the people here, and it’s not about angels. It’s about prayer and faith. 

We read this from verse 5 here in Acts 12.

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

Acts 12:5 (NIV)

Do you see the contradiction between the church’s actions in verse 5 and verse 12? In verse 5 they are praying to God for Peter, and in verse 12, when their prayers have been answered, they don’t believe it! Now, we have to be careful to not look down on our brethren here and condemn them for a lack of faith. 

When we lift our petitions to God, we do so in faith, hoping we are praying for God to do something that’s in his will. None of us have God’s understanding. Try as we might, we cannot see the world through God’s eyes. What we know, we only know in part (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:9). I don’t know about you, but only seeing in part is difficult for me, and I find it a challenge to walk in faith when I only partially see. Of course, if I could fully see, would it be eyes of faith? 

What I mean is this. There have been times when I have earnestly prayed for things like people to be healed, and they died. People who loved the Lord and followed him whole-heartily. My first best friend in the Lord was one such person, and his death bothered me for years. I never had any doubts about my friend being healed, so when he died I was shocked. The Lord, in His grace and mercy, has shown me why he called my brother home. Today I walk in confidence with a bitter-sweet joy knowing I will see him once again, and we will celebrate the Lord together as we once did. 

As my brother and I walked together before his death, our faith grew. Indeed, his faith grew as did that of his wife and family. Everyone in our church looked forward to his healing, and his friends saw new life in him that could only be attributed to a faith in God.

Now, if I saw completely, I would have known my brother would die. He would die, be healed, and delivered, to live eternally with our Lord and Savior. I wouldn’t have prayed for his healing on earth and walked in faith with him believing it to be done. What would have happened to all of those prayers lifted to the Lord in faith? How would my brother’s faith have increased or that of his wife and family? What about all of those who saw my brother’s faith in God? 

Such is the paradox of faith. We know that such and such is going to happen because we believe. Sometimes we’ve been praying for something for a long time, and our faith goes up and down. It’s stronger one day and not so much another. Other times, like the church here in Acts, something happens, and we pray for it, and we see the “Yes!” manifest unexpectedly soon. There are also those times, like the case of my beloved brother, when we pray for healing, and God does it. Just not in the way we thought. We see in part.

That’s what I see here in Acts 12 with the church. An illustration of what it means to be a Christian. Sometimes, when we pray for the “impossible,” we’re surprised when our prayers are answered. I don’t think we should look at it as a lack of faith, as much as it is an effect of only seeing in part.

I never expected that studying the Bible would lead me to a path with a unicorn on it. I don’t believe in unicorns, and I really don’t think the Lord created one so its skin could be used to cover the tabernacle. I do believe in the quest for understanding and have often perused pieces to put the puzzle together that I might see better. When it comes to angels, I know they are real. I also know we don’t turn into angels when we die. 

What I endeavor to remember is this. Seeking to know the Lord better is a journey of enlightenment that calls for a discernment that can only come from the Holy Spirit. What’s the Spirit telling you today? 

Do you know God? God knows you, and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away. 

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart, and I receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.