Honor to a Woman

courtesy of Jon Wisbey
courtesy of Jon Wisbey

 

Psalm 123

Judges 4:1-7

1Thessalonians 5:1-10

Matthew 25:14-30

 

Three women attained the status of prophet in the Old Testament: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14).  God chooses every true prophet, sometimes against the wishes of the one chosen.  Deborah was also a judge in the historical period when judges ruled Israel.

The conquest of Canaan was a slow progression covering centuries.  Joshua got them settled in the land, but only in the mountains.  The Canaanites possessed the hi-tech iron chariots, the WMD of the day.  They were deadly on flat ground but of no use in the mountains.

When the people trusted God and followed His commands they succeeded in moving into the plains.  When they took up with the false gods, mostly Baal and his queen Astarte, they fell on hard times.  Once the people moved into the lowlands, they needed to exist on farming.  Since they were nomads and knew little of farming, it seemed wise to them to worship the god and goddess of fertility.

God disagreed.  He allowed the Canaanites to conquer the people for twenty years until he called Deborah to return his people to their rightful place.  God also called Barak to be his military commander and to assemble 10,000 men (or perhaps 10 units, the Hebrew is not clear) on Mount Tabor.

Barak agreed but wanted reassurance, so asked Deborah to go along, perhaps to relay God’s word more quickly, perhaps just to calm his nerves.  Whatever, it was a sign that he did not have complete faith in God, so he lost the credit for God’s victory.

Jesus spoke of that loss of faith in his Parable of the Talents.  The first two men had faith and took a chance at doing what the master would have done.  The master was pleased not with the money but that they followed in his footsteps.  God has never wanted humans to do anything but believe in Him.  As Jesus said in another setting, God is pleased with the widow’s mite because of her faith that God could put it to proper use and because she gave of herself, not of her wealth.

We live in a country obsessed with personal strength.  We reward intelligence, beauty, skill, strength and wealth.  We malign weakness.  Our heroes are taller, stronger and smarter than most of us.  In short, we are not interested in trusting God.

What would America be like if we followed Judge Deborah and returned to the Truth of God?  Would we spend 20% of our national budget on the military but only 2% on education or 3.5% on the needs of all those soldiers damaged in the military?  Would we allow 600,000 people to sleep on the streets at night?  Would we allow 14.5% of Americans to live below the poverty line?  Even if half of them work part-time jobs totaling 60 hours a week?

God demands love and justice, not strength.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

1 Peter 2—2 Peter 1

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Monday, November 10, 1 Peter Chapter 2

Peter instructs us to think of ourselves as building stones, making up the walls of the Church.  He quotes Isaiah 28:16:  So the Lord Yahweh says this, ‘Now I shall lay a stone in Zion, a granite stone, a precious corner-stone, a firm foundation-stone:  no one who relies on this will stumbleNJB  But he also uses the ideas in Isaiah 8:14 and Psalm 118:22.  The corner stone is the first stone laid and becomes the stone against which all other stones are measured.  If the corner stone is true, then the whole building should be true.

The capstone of Psalm 118 (in some translations, in others it is corner stone) is the top-most stone which must seal the wall so that weather does not enter and destroy the building.  A third stone which could be used to describe Jesus is the keystone.  When an arch is constructed of stone, the top-most stone is wedged into the top of the arch so that all the other stones lean against it and do not fall.

All of these images were familiar to people who built mostly stone buildings.

We must also think of these images as we try to build our individual Christian lives.  Jesus must be our corner stone in all things.  If what we do does not line up with that Corner, we are wrong.

Every human is free to approach God anytime and anywhere.  Yet we are called to be priests.  What does that mean?  Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of talking with God and may need help.  That is the job of the priest.  Priests also talk to God on behalf of others.  In other words, priests do what Jesus did while he was living here.

Always remember that we are citizens of God’s Kingdom, not any kingdom of this earth.  Here we are strangers in a strange land.

As such, we should be willing to follow the laws of this strange land, as long as they do not conflict with the laws of God.  That does not mean we have no right or even obligation to change laws that are contrary to God’s Law, but we must do it in a responsible way.

Tuesday, November 11, 1 Peter Chapter 3

Peter calls on wives to submit to their husbands in the same way that slaves submit to their masters.  If Peter were writing to modern Americans, I am sure he would phrase it differently.  Something like:  wives and husbands, treat each other with respect.  Never attack one another.  Always strive to treat the other as you want to be treated.  He might still have something to say to us about dress, hair and makeup.

Look at verse 8.  The literal translation of the Greek reads:  Now the summary, all of one mind, sympathetic, loving brothers, tenderhearted, humble-minded, not rendering evil for evil or abuse for abuse.  As the NIV has it, live in harmony.  That is what married people do, that is what Christians do no matter who they are with.  In that sense, Peter quotes Psalm 34:12-16.

If we do good, God will reward us in Heaven even if we are punished on earth.  We will not always know what is right, but when it is clear, when God makes it clear, we must be prepared to accept abuse for standing with the right.  Jesus expects it of us as his disciples.

Wednesday, November 12, 1 Peter Chapter 4

It is not easy to be an alien anywhere.  It is especially difficult to be an alien with the people who are family and friends, or at least people who grew up with a similar life.  Becoming a citizen of Heaven changes Christians.  I do not want to do what other Americans want to do.  Sure, many things, but not everything.  It is so hard in our current culture to be “different”.  We do not want to stand out.  We want to belong.

What we should want is to belong to God.  I want to be comfortable hanging out with Jesus.

Love covers sins.  Love makes up for practically anythingMSG

Do not be ashamed if you suffer as a Christian.  Stand proud for being with Jesus.

Proverbs 11:31.

Thursday, November 13, 1 Peter Chapter 5

At the opening of this letter Peter identified himself as an Apostle of Jesus.  Now he calls himself and elder (bishop).  He wanted all the church leaders to understand that he knew their problems.  He was in the trenches with them.

Being a shepherd involves sacrifice.  Taking on a position in your local congregation requires working for God to help your fellow followers of Christ.  It is a humbling thought and one we should always keep in mind.

In this letter Peter uses three terms interchangeably:  elder, overseer, and shepherd.

The reminder to the young to respect the elders might suggest that some took their freedom in Christ too far.  Learn from those who have lived through more than you have.

Peter closes by mentioning Silas, though it is written in the Latin form of Silvanus.  He is the same Silas associated with Paul and moved on to work with Peter.  Likewise, Mark is the same John Mark who worked with Paul.

In verse 13 the NIV has She who is in Babylon, which is closest to the Greek.  The She is simply the church in Babylon.  However, the Babylon is not clear.  There was a small town called Babylon near the ancient city.  But he may simply have referred to the whole region.  Other possibilities are an Egyptian military outpost, Jerusalem and Rome.  Take your pick.

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Friday, November 14, 2 Peter Chapter 1

This letter is still being debated as to its authenticity.  Some of the early church fathers accepted it as a letter from Peter and others rejected it.  It was still not part of the accepted scripture as late as the fourth century and was one of the last to make it into the New Testament.  A number of reasons for rejection are given, but none attack the message; it agrees with the rest of the New Testament.

Phillips uses a heading to start verse 3 which best describes the message of Peter: God has done his part: see that you do yours.  The message is that we have all we need to live as disciples in this world.  While Peter does not spend any time on the meaning of faith, he begins with faith.  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, loveNIV

Those are the tools of the Christian, but note that we work on them, starting with faith.  We build ourselves up with practice, prayer, study, and a willing attitude.  In verse 13 he tells us that we need to be reminded from time to time to work on these virtues.

Peter writes that he personally heard God say, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” NIV  Peter, James and John were the only others present with Jesus at the transfiguration.

The meaning of the Morning Star is found first in Isaiah 11:1 And there shall come forth a Khoter out of the Geza of Yishai, and a Netzer shall bear fruit of his rootsOJB   OR A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruitNIV

It is also found in Isaiah 28:16-17 Now I shall lay a stone in Zion, a granite stone, a precious corner-stone, a firm foundation-stone:  no one who relies on this will stumble.  And I will make fair judgement the measure, and uprightness the plumb-lineNJB

But it is not until Revelation 2:28 that we get the full use of the title of Morning Star as applied to the Messiah.  I, Yehoshua sent My malach to give solemn eidus to you of these things, for the Kehillot. I am the Shoresh and the offspring of Dovid, the Kokhav HaShacharOJB OR I, Yeshua, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the Messianic communities. I am the Root and Offspring of David, the bright Morning StarCJB

You will have noticed that Isaiah did not use the title Morning Star at all.  In fact, in Isaiah 14:12 we read How are you fallen from heaven, O shining One, son of Dawn! JSB  That whole section describes the fall of the Father of Lies.  Some translations read How you have fallen from heaven,    morning star, son of the dawn! NIV  That wording adds confusion to the importance of the title for the Messiah.  Lucifer is one of the meanings of the Hebrew in this verse.

Clearly, the Morning Star is not Lucifer.  But perhaps it is intentional that the names are so similar.  Lucifer wants us to believe he is the Morning Star, even as he knows only the True Messiah is the Morning Star.  Lucifer is only a morning star, a pale shadow of the Truth.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

As for Me and My House

Cartoon—Copyright 2014 Thom Tapp and Christianity Today International/BuildingChurchLeaders.com. Used with permission.
Cartoon—Copyright 2014 Thom Tapp and Christianity Today International/BuildingChurchLeaders.com. Used with permission.

 

Psalm 78:1-7

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

1Thessalonians 4:13-18

Matthew 25:1-13

 

God spoke to the people through his prophet Joshua describing their history from Abraham on.  At every stage God said, I did this.  Then Joshua closes with his own words.  If it seems bad to you to serve Adonai, then choose today whom you are going to serve! …As for me and my household, we will serve Adonai! CJB

As we work our way through the long list of Old Testament men and women who served God, we see great things mixed with failures.  Abraham, the man of faith, doubted the promise of God.  David murdered the husband of Bathsheba.  But they remained as faithful as they could.  We must take heart in that message.  God loves us in our failures.

In the traditional Middle Eastern wedding, the groom, even today, walks with family and friends to the house of the bride and returns to his house for the festivities.  But, the walk back winds through as many streets as possible so that everyone gets a chance to meet and greet.  Meanwhile, the main wedding guests are waiting at the groom’s house.

The 10 young women in Jesus parable have their small lamps to show everyone who they are.  It is indecent for a woman to be out at night without such a light, even today.  Also, the light is not used to light the path but to show the face.  It is all about maintaining a good reputation.  That is part of the message that we often overlook.

As the night wears on, the girls snooze.  When the announcement comes that the groom and his bride are coming down the street, the ten women pick up their lamps which are nearly out of oil.  The lamps are too small to hold more than a few ounces, so five women refill their lamps from extra oil they brought along as the others beg for some of the oil.  Getting no help, the five rush away to borrow oil from people they know and return to find the door closed.

If we foolishly allow ourselves to slide away from service to God, if we lose that reputation of goodness, we risk not being ready when our Groom arrives to take us home.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence