October 29 – The Afflicted Slave Girl

Today’s woman of the Bible is a woman who suffered an affliction, and that affliction was misused and exploited to the advantage of others.  

Acts 16:16-23  Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally, Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.” 

This woman obviously had an evil spirit because Paul became annoyed and commanded the spirit to come out of her in the name of Jesus Christ, and it obeyed.  The spirit enabled her to seemingly predict the future, and as part of that she was a slave and her owners used her to make money by her unique ability.  (Acts 16:19)  However, she was a captive.  She was demon possessed and needed to be set free.  Yes, the evil spirit recognized truth and proclaimed it (16:17), but just because evil recognizes truth, that does not make the spirit acceptable.  James 2:19 acknowledges this fact:  ‘You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that—and shudder.’

Instead of her owners rejoicing that she had been set free, they were upset.  Their money-making afflicted slave girl could no longer be exploited.  She had just had an evil spirit cast out of her life, and ignoring the power of this miracle, they pushed to have the very one who performed the miracle thrown into jail.  Their focus was on making money not magnifying God.  Their focus was on prosperity rather than pity for her plight. And in their focus, they completely missed this miracle given to show the power of God and validate the words of the Apostles.

Today we have those words written and they have become our God-breathed New Testament.  May we not become so focused and busy that we, too, miss the point.  May we find the time to read His Word and have our hearts transformed to His glory.

October 28 – Lois: A Godly Grandma

There is nothing better than being a grandma!  You get to love on those little ones with none of the responsibility that comes with motherhood.  You can rock and feed them, take them on outings, feed them ice cream or even snuggle up and let them sleep in your bed without worry that it will become a habit.  Being a grandma is like being a mom, but the kids LIKE you, and even believe you are wise!

The Apostle Paul gives us a very brief glimpse at a grandma in the Bible, and her name is Lois.  Lois, the grandmother of Timothy is today’s woman of the Bible.  We find a direct and indirect mention of her in the book of 2 Timothy.

I [Paul] am reminded of your [Timothy] sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. (2 Timothy 1:5)

But as for you [Timothy], continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  (2 Timothy 3:14, 15)

Eunice was the mother of Timothy, and according to Acts 16:1, she was a Jewish believer who had married a Greek man.  “Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother [Eunice] was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek.”  All Jewish boys were circumcised, and it was the responsibility of Jewish fathers to oversee this rite.  Since Timothy’s father was Greek, this would not have been his custom and all the Jewish people knew this.  (Acts 1:3)  Thus, you have young Timothy being raised in a home where grandma and mom were devoted Jews and now believers, but dad was not.  In addition, it is possible that Timothy’s dad died while Timothy was young.

It was in this context that Paul gave a shout out of respect to Grandma Lois (and mom Eunice) for raising Timothy in the Lord.  Paul had seen the sincere faith that lived in Lois, and her daughter, and he now also saw in Timothy.

Being a grandma can be fun.  It is certainly easier than juggling dishes, diapers and discipline as the little ones grow up.  But it is also a sacred responsibility and a unique, God-given opportunity to build into the next generation not just with fun memories and wise advice, but with godly wisdom, helping to prepare the soil of their hearts for growth in Christ.

We are told that from infancy Timothy had known the Holy Scriptures.  His grandma didn’t wait until he was old enough to understand theology.  She didn’t give him the option to ‘choose for himself’ when he was old enough to decide any more than you give your child the option to brush their teeth when they are old enough to decide.  Grandma Lois held Timothy on her lap and told him the history of the Jewish people.  She shared the prophecies of the coming Messiah.  She taught him the Old Testament and her new-found faith in Jesus.  She made her faith real to him and took the time to purposely build into wee Timothy’s spiritual life.

Let us be thankful for the faith of the older generation, and specifically for how their prayers, actions and words have done so much to point a younger generation to Christ.  Your challenge today is to thank someone twice your age (ok, your age plus a third) for the good, sound, Biblical teaching they took time and effort to pass on.  And if you are a grandma (or a grandpa) pray and ask God how you can invest in the spiritual well-being of your next generation.

October 27 – Mary: An Act of Worship

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

This is a very familiar Bible passage to many people.  Children’s songs have been written imploring us to be a Mary and not a Martha, busy and distracted by all the preparations.  But did you know that there is a second scene where Jesus is eating with Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus?  It can be found in John 12:1-8 and helps us to see a little bit more about Mary, our woman of the Bible for today.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.  (John 12:1-9)

Once again, we see this family serving Jesus by meeting his physical need for food.  In the previous chapter, Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead and many are coming to see this for themselves. It is now just 6 days before the Passover and within the week Jesus will die on the cross.  

What does Mary do?  She takes an expensive alabaster jar of nard perfume and pours the entire contents on Jesus’ feet, and then wipes His feet with her hair.  Alabaster is a marble type of stone.  It was commonly found in Israel and was one of the precious stones used in the decorating of Solomon’s temple.  Alabaster boxes or jars were made not with a stopper but were sealed with wax to keep the perfume inside fresh and pure.  They could only be opened by breaking the neck of the bottle, immediately releasing the perfume into the air.  Once opened, it needed to be used as the perfume could not be resealed, and therefore it could no longer be saved as an investment or inheritance of value.  Nard is an amber coloured perfume and was used for its fragrance.  Nard (or spikenard) was used as one of the 11 herbs for the incense in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem; incense offered up to God the Father.  

Mary takes this perfume worth a year’s wages (John 12:6), and willingly breaks the neck of the jar, pouring the entire contents onto Jesus’ feet and then wiping it with her hair.  This isn’t a long- term investment or gift to be used wisely and to bless many.  It is nothing short of an all-out loving act of worship.  Mary has much to be thankful for.  Jesus has raised her brother from the dead, and although she does not yet fully understand that He will soon die for her sins, she is grateful and thankful and recognizes that this is no ordinary man but the Messiah.  What Mary does as an act of worship and thanksgiving Jesus also sees as preparation for His burial.

Before the end of the week Jesus will be flogged, beaten, mocked, tried and hung.  He will die on the cross and His unbroken but dead body will be gently lifted on the eve of the Sabbath and laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.  And that whole time the fragrance of this act of worship will cling to Him as reminder that this indeed is no ordinary man.  This is the Son of God, worthy of our worship.  

Our woman of the Bible for today did not know the full significance of what she was doing.  She simply acted extravagantly out of the worship flowing forth from her heart.  By all analysis and logic, the money could have been better spent; until we realize that Jesus is about to die and we realize the implications of her act; preparing Him for His burial.  Once the Christ rises from the dead and we recognize what He has done in taking our sins to the cross, no amount of perfume is enough.  This is God Himself.  

Our lesson is to let God move our hearts in acts of worship.  We also have much to be thankful for, and when He moves us to act, maybe it is best to just obey rather than analyzing the wisdom behind our worship. Quietly sitting at His feet, or extravagant, unabashed, grateful acts of worship flowing from a grateful and humble heart.  May we truly worship Him who is worthy.

October 26 – God Loves a Cheerful Giver!

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you won $1,000,000?  I know you have!  I dream and laugh with some of my friends about trips to Hawaii, a maid to clean the house, a yellow Bumble Bee coloured Mustang, and other fun, off the cuff comments.  But did you know that the Scriptures tell us of a group of women that had an incredible blessing and opportunity because of their ministry of giving money?

Today’s Woman of the Bible is a very rich woman because of her husband’s occupation.  He is the manager of Herod’s household.  And she takes some of what they (Joanna and Chuza) have and does what we would all love to do should we have lived at the time of Christ—she uses it to actually meet the financial needs of Jesus Christ Himself.  Her story can be found in Luke 8:1-3; 23:55,56 and 24:1-11.  

“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.  The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases:  Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others.  These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.  Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes.  But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen!  Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’’  Then they remembered his words.  When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.  It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.  But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  Peter, however…”

So, what do we learn from these passages about Joanna (and the other women)?

1.  They traveled from one town to another with Jesus and the 12:  that is, they gave and went.
2.  They helped support Jesus and the 12 out of their personal finances.
3.  They traveled with Jesus to Jerusalem on His final journey.
4.  They were present when Christ’s body was taken off the cross and laid out in the tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.
5.   They obeyed the OT command to rest on the Sabbath. 
6.  They prepared spices and perfume as according to the custom, to anoint Jesus’ body in burial.
7.  As early as possible after the Sabbath, they took these spices and perfume and went to the tomb.
8.  They saw 2 angels who proclaimed that Jesus was alive.
9.  They reported all this to the 11 and to others.
10.  They were not believed at first, except by Peter.

God blessed Chuza and he became the manager of Herod’s household.  His wife Joanna used some of their funds and along with other women, met the needs of Jesus and the Apostles as He taught, healed and fed others.  This resulted in being there right after the physical resurrection of Jesus, and hearing it announced by 2 angels.

Figuratively speaking, we all can use our finances to meet the needs of Jesus Christ through the church.  We give our tithes, our offerings, our first fruits, along with our consecrated lives; we give to the church and trust that those funds are used to further the Kingdom of God through the hiring of church staff, feeding the poor, paying the church bills, missionary support, and so on.  Just as Joanna used her money (and that of her husband) to actually cover the earthly physical needs of Jesus and the Apostles, so we can enter into the ministry of giving.  We won’t be blessed by seeing the physical resurrection of Christ, or by participating in anointing his body with spices and perfume, but we will be a part of something Jesus promised ‘would be greater than’ His miracles.  “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do EVEN GREATER THINGS THAN THESE, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) What miracle could possibly be greater than healing the sick or physically raising someone from the dead?  As Jesus promised?   The miracle of new life.  The miracle of regeneration of a heart.  The miracle of eternal life, through faith in Christ.  Wow!  What a privilege to be used by God, through the Holy Spirit, to meet the needs of the messenger and bearer of the good news of the Gospel, and in that way, to be a part of seeing the Holy Spirit touch a heart and regenerate a lost soul to new life and eternal life.

Joanna.  Her name means the Lord give graciously, and in that way, may we all be a Joanna.

1  Herod the Tetrarch.  His father was Herod the Great, who killed the infants, and died when Jesus was 3 years old.

October 25 – What Can I Do for God?

Have you ever asked yourself that question?  It’s human nature to look at people whom God has used to influence numerous lives and find ourselves falling short by our own measure.  Our acts of service and words of encouragement may have impacted a life here or there, but we certainly don’t have the following of thousands, and we come up feeling somehow less important, less effective for Christ.

Today’s Woman of the Bible is Dorcas.  Dorcas lived on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in a small town called Joppa.  Her name means ‘gazelle,’ and this is the same woman referred to as Tabitha1. We know of her because this is the Tabitha that Peter raised back to life.

How significant does someone have to be to be raised back to life?  Well, let’s see what we can find out about her.  When Dorcas became ill and died, the apostle Peter was in the nearby town of Lydda.  The believers who were mourning her death sent for him, asking him to ‘urgently come.’  We aren’t sure why he was summoned; it’s possible that they were hoping to see her raised from the dead.  More likely, they were in grief and knew that Peter was available to come, pay his respects, and mourn with them.  It would be a comfort to have him near in a time of sorrow.  We are told many widows were at Dorcas’ home weeping.  It was the custom of the day to hire professional mourners for a loved one who passed.  These mourners would weep and wail and tear their clothing, sometimes sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  But the mourners in this story are not professionals.  These mourners did not sit outside the gate but were in the very room with Dorcas’ body2.  These widows were obviously touched by Dorcas’s life and genuinely mourned her death.  

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’ (James 1:27) Dorcas lived her life this way.  She touched the lives of many of the widows, so much so that they needed comfort in her death.  “Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed.  Turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’  She opened her eyes and seeing Peter she sat up.  He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet.  Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive.”  (Acts 9:40-42)

What had Dorcas done with her life?  What was her significant work that brought genuine mourners, a need for the comfort of an Apostle, and brought all these widows together to mourn and to share?  What had she done that Peter raised her from the dead? Did she preach to thousands?  Did she travel to the far reaches of the Mediterranean area taking the Gospel?  Did she give all she had to the poor and feed the widows daily?  The answer is in Acts 9:39; it is here that we find the rest of the story.  

Acts 9:39  “Peter went with them, and when he arrived, he was taken upstairs to the room.  All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.” 

Dorcas was a seamstress.  She was a simple woman with a talent for sewing, and she used that talent to bless others and to serve the Lord.  She was a seamstress who gave the things she made to those in need.  And her impact?  In life, she made friends who missed her and who reflected on the kindness of her heart.  The raising of the dead was a powerful miracle that was visible and led fellow villagers to Christ, but it was in her day-to-day life, using her gifts and her talents that hewn her value into the hearts of her friends.  It was this quiet miracle of a life lived in kindness and generosity that made them weep. 

How significant does someone have to be to be raised back to life?  The fault is in the question itself, for to God, we are all significant.  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  He HAS raised us back to life; life eternal when the wages of sin are death.  But not because of what we have done; to Him, each one is significant before we even do one thing for Him and His kingdom.  He doesn’t measure our value and worth by the magnitude of our impact, but by the nature of who we are; a unique and special creation made in the image of God.  Each one of us.  

Value.  Worth.  It’s there simply because we are created in His image.  And yet, no act for God is too small.  Our woman of the Bible sewed and God used her life to His glory.  May you live today in the truth that you are of value and worth to God simply because you are His creation.  And may all your deeds, even if they are unglamourous and small, be used to His glory.

1  Tabitha is Aramaic for Dorcas.
2 Acts 9:39

September 24 – Rahab

If you had a chance to attend Sunday School as a kid, you probably know the story of Joshua and the Walls of Jericho.  Most military strategists would concur that you can’t win a battle with a horn.  But in the Old Testament God often did strange things to win battles.  He did this so there was no doubt that it was God who was with the victors, that is, Israel.  It was all about obedience and recognizing who is truly God in a culture full of gods and goddesses.

Rahab was a prostitute.  She had a home built into the wall of the city (Joshua 2:15) and in her trade, men were always coming and going.  She was a woman of ill repute but was seeking God.  When Joshua sent spies into the land, she already knew of their God.  She said to the spies she was hiding in her home, “I know that the LORD has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.  We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.  When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”  (Joshua 2:9-11)  Wow!  Based on what she had seen and heard, she knew that the city recognized the God of Israel, and she herself makes a profession of faith in His sovereignty.

In rest of the story (you can read it in Joshua 2-6) Rahab hid the spies, helped them escape, was promised safety for her help, was given 2 commands to follow to ensure the safety of her household, watched the army march around Jericho, saw the walls fall, and was carried off into safety with her family and all in her household.  We next hear of her in Matthew 1 where she is mentioned as one of the 5 women named in the genealogy of Jesus through Mary. 

Rahab was truly a woman of faith.  She trusted in what she had heard about God, obeyed the contract, and saved her family.  “Now then, please swear to me [Rahab] by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you.  Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”  The spies answer, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house.  If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible.  As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them.  But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.” 

“Agreed,” she replied.  “Let it be as you say.”  So, she sent them away, and they departed.  And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.”  (Joshua 2:12-21)

I always believed she was rewarded for helping the spies and her act of faith was to bring her family into her home and drop the scarlet cord outside the window so she could be easily found and rescued.  But then I tracked the timeline.  During this whole timeline, Rahab and her family is staying inside her home.  Patiently.  Waiting to be rescued.  It goes something like this:

*Rahab lowers the spies and ties the scarlet cord.  She brings her family inside. (2:21)
*the spies hide in the hills for 3 days (2:22)
*the spies go on their way back to camp which involves fording the river (2:23)
*they arrive at camp and report all that has happened (2:23)
*a military decision is made (context between chapters 2 and 3)
*they go to the river and camp (3:1)
*3 days pass (3:2)
*a plan is made regarding ‘tomorrow’ (3:5)
*they break camp and cross the Jordan (3:14-17)
*40,000 military armed soldiers ‘hurry’ across the river (3:17; 
*they camp at Gilgal and build an altar of stones to remember (4:1-9)
*the uncircumcised men are circumcised (5:2,3)
*they stay put until these men have healed (5:8)
*the Israelites celebrate the Passover (5:10,11)
*the army arrives at Jericho (5:13)
*they march around the city 6 times in 6 days (6:12-14)
*the 7th day the walls come tumbling down (6:15)

All this time, Rahab’s mother, father, brothers (plural), sisters (plural) their families and all those in Rahab’s household are INSIDE her home, waiting to be delivered.  By tracking the dates given, and the events, it would easily be not less than 2 weeks, and more likely a month or more.  Her faith—her trust in the promise–was great.  For at least 14 days she managed to convince the whole of her family to wait upon the Lord, and to not go outside into the streets lest they be destroyed.  

Rahab.  A woman mentioned in the lineage of Jesus.  A woman with quite the past.  A woman who was not beyond redeeming and certainly a woman of faith in a God she had only heard about from the surrounding nations.  What a reward to see that same God at work, rewarding her faith and trust, as the walls came tumbling down.  

“Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, ‘Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.’  So, the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her.  They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.”  (Joshua 6:22, 23)

May God grant us patience as we wait for Him to fulfill His promises.  May we have the faith of Rahab to stay under the umbrella of His care, even though we know the walls are going to come tumbling down all around us.  May we have the faith of Rahab to wait not for a day or two, but for however long it takes.  For He is faithful, and He will do as He has said.

September 23 – Bathsheba

We have just looked at the sad and tragic story of David’s daughter Tamar, and today’s devotional is about one of King David’s wives; Bathsheba, the infamous woman bathing on the roof within sight of the palace, and eventual mother to King Solomon.  Her story is found in 2 Samuel 11.

“In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war… David remained in Jerusalem.” (2 Sam 11:1)  The trouble began because King David was not where he was supposed to be, doing the things he was supposed to be doing.  It was the time of the year when kings go off to war, and instead, “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace.  From the roof he saw a woman bathing.  The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her…Then David sent messengers to get her.”  (2 Sam 11:2-4)

We all know the story of how Bathsheba became pregnant from this encounter, and in order to cover up the truth that this was his child, David put into place an elaborate scheme to first trick Bathsheba’s husband, and when that didn’t work,  put him (Uriah) on the front lines to ensure that he was killed and the truth never known.  But God knows.  The chapter ends with ‘But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.’ (2 Sam 11:27)  

David saw Bathsheba, wanted her even though she was the wife of another, and took her.1  We don’t know what say Bathsheba had in all of this, but she lived in a time when women were seen not as individuals but as property.  The word ‘took’ means seize, take captive, to be captured, in the original Hebrew.  In addition, when the King sent his men to get her to come to the palace, she wouldn’t have the right to say no.  We know that when Nathan the prophet confronted King David (2 Sam 12:1-10) it was King David who was accused and found guilty.  Nothing was said of Bathsheba.

When Uriah died, Bathsheba grieved for him.  (2 Sam. 11:26)  He had gone off to war, she was pregnant against her will and now she was an expectant widow, all alone.

King David took her to the palace and married her.  She gave birth to a son but only 7 days after David was confronted about his sin of taking another man’s wife, the baby boy died.  Once again, she grieved.  If she knew David’s hand in the murder of her husband and the consequences of sin as a king, it would be hard to not be biased against him.

David went in to comfort his wife, and within 9 months she gave birth to Solomon, the one who would build the earthly temple for God.  God loved Solomon and renamed him Jedidiah meaning beloved by the LORD.  (2 Sam. 12:24)  God redeemed Bathsheba’s pain and heartache by giving her another son.  It didn’t remove the grief but did add joy to it.

When Bathsheba was included in the lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1:6  it wasn’t by name.  It never says, Bathsheba but rather ‘ David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.’  I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t some sweet tribute to Bathsheba as a wife; a recognition that she loved and wrongly  lost her first spouse.  We assume she loved David and was ok with all that happened to her, but from her perspective she lost her husband and was taken to marry the man who was responsible for that death.  Tamar’s name is not silenced, and neither is Uriah’s.  Bathsheba; it isn’t forgotten that she was Uriah’s wife; and perhaps this is how she wanted to be known.

Nothing is hidden from God.  We may think our secrets are safe, but God loves too greatly to sweep anything under the carpet.  We are never forgotten nor abandoned to our ways.

When God disciplines us, let us remember that it is because He loves us and truly wants what is best for each and every one.  

1  Yesterday we looked at Amnon, the son of David.  He saw his sister Tamar and without any thought of her, took her for himself and destroyed her life.  It is interesting that the son follows the father’s example of lust and greed.

September 22 – Ruth

There are only five women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 1.  They are Tamar, Ruth, Rahab, Bathsheba and Mary.  In the recorded and mentioned line of Christ we have an adulterous woman (perhaps by no choice of her own), a prostitute, a foreigner who is a  non-believer and has married a man from the tribe of Israel, and a daughter-in-law who is unfairly treated and deals with it in a treacherous way.  And then we have the mother of Jesus.  Obviously, for each generation in the line of Christ, there had to be both a mother and father bringing forth the next generation.  I am sure there are some noteworthy, trumpet announcing, outstanding women of faith and trust.  But God continually challenges that voice in our heads that says we are not worthy enough, and in this case chooses to include 4 out of 5 women who easily could be shunned, overlooked or considered ‘unredeemable.’  For the rest of this week, we will take a peek at the lives of three of these women—women considered by the Holy Spirit to be important enough to be the ones highlighted in the genealogy of our LORD.

Ruth—our first woman has a whole book written about her life.  The book of Ruth, found in the Old Testament, tells us in a brief summary that she is someone who was welcomed into a family that had much hardship and heartache.  Loved by God, but certainly not living the life of health, wealth and prosperity, she would be considered by some present-day religious leaders as unloved by God by His lack of blessing on her life.  Oh, how differently God sees things!  I encourage you to read through the whole book of Ruth.

“In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land.  So, a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab.  The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion.  They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah.  And they went to Moab and lived there.” (Ruth 1:1-2)

They belong to the tribe of Ephraim, one of the 12 tribes of Israel.  They are of God’s chosen people.  Their move wasn’t to get away from their family, beliefs or tribal lands, but simply to find food; there was a famine in the land, and they moved to survive.1  

“Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons.  They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth.  After they had lived there about 10 years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.” (Ruth 1:3-5)

Ruth is a Moabite; a foreigner, one that ‘belongs to’ or worships a god other than Yahweh.  

She is married to her ‘Christian husband’ for about 10 years, but still does not worship the true God.  Yes, we have a woman in the line of Christ who is worthy enough to be mentioned but starts out rather roughly according to the Biblical guidelines for marriage.  

In Ruth 1:6 we are told that when Naomi and her two daughters-in-law (all three are widows) hear that there is food again in Moab, they set out to return to the land of Israel.  And here we have the reason we see Ruth in the genealogical line of Christ.

In Ruth 1:8-14 Naomi implores her daughters-in-law to return to their father’s tents and take up life from there.  Perhaps they will find a new husband to love and take care of them from within their own.  She reasons that she is too old to find a husband, have more sons, let them grow up and then see them marry these girls; to redeem the situation.

Ruth’s response is ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.  Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.  May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.’

It is this faith in God and a commitment to belong to Him, whatever that looks like, that gains Ruth a spot in the lineage of Christ, and rightly so.

She doesn’t know everything about Yahweh.  She says, ‘the LORD’ but also ‘your God will be my God.’  She has tasted grief (3 deaths, including her husband of about 10 years), hardship (famine and widowhood) and despair (the culture pattern of redeeming a situation of widowhood won’t work here).  Yet she is willing to trust this God who doesn’t always appear benevolent, and to take the good with the bad.  This family from the tribe of Ephraim must have had quite an impact on her life.

Paul Harvey would say, ‘Read the book of Ruth for the rest of the story,’ because God does redeem the situation through another family member.2  And Ruth learns much about the Lord and lives the rest of her life for Him, both in devotion and deed.  

Ruth, our first woman of the lineage of Christ as found in Matthew.  An unbeliever.  A worshipper of other gods.  Redeemed.  Since God included her, we know He will do so for those finding themselves in this situation today.  There is hope.  And so, our application is to love, in word and deed, and to never stop praying that those around us will want to make our God their God.

1 When Naomi heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. (Ruth1:6)

2 The Hebrew word for guardian-redeemer in Ruth 4:1 is a legal term for one who has the obligation to redeem a relative who is in serious difficulty.  See this requirement in Leviticus 25:25-55.

September 21 – Tamar

Our second woman this week is Tamar1.  Her father is King David; the same David who killed Goliath, ran from Saul and became King of Israel and the father of Solomon.  Because David had many wives, he had many children who were half- brothers and sisters to each other.  In each case, David was their father, but their mothers differed.  

David’s son Amnon admired Tamar.  They were related and lived in the same palace because David was the father of both.  Now Amnon didn’t admire her in the ‘respect and admiration’ sense of the word but in the love-sick, lust focused sense.  In fact, we are told from the beginning that his admiration of Tamar was a self-seeking, evil intended lust.  “Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill.  She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.”  He had a lustful intention to fulfill, but Tamar would do no moral wrong.  One day Amnon’s cousin (2 Sam 13:3) asks him why he continually looks so haggard.  He is a son of the king and yet looks literally heart sick.  “Amnon said to him, ‘I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.’”  Jonadab immediately responds with a way to trap Tamar so that his other cousin, Amnon, will be able to rape her. (2 Sam 13:5-10)   Amnon puts this plan into effect, and after deceiving Tamar into feeding him from his sickbed, Amnon grabs her and says, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”  “No, my brother!” she said to him.  “Don’t force me!  Such a thing should not be done in Israel!  Don’t do this wicked thing.  What about me?  Where could I get rid of my disgrace…But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.”  (2 Sam 13:12-14)

Tamar is shamed.  Tamar is now ‘damaged goods’ and no longer eligible to be married.  To cast her out now meant the crime would continue.  She could never marry or have children; she would never have a normal life.  She begs her brother to marry her and redeem something from this horrible situation.  But instead, she is immediately hated, thrown out and abandoned.   “Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred.  In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her.  Amnon said to her, ‘Get up and get out!’  No longer his beloved Tamar, she instantly becomes ‘this woman.’  Amnon has ‘this woman’ removed from his sight, the door bolted, and Tamar weeps and mourns aloud as she tears her royal garments and places ashes on her head.  Placing her hand on her head as the sign of a bereaved woman, bruised and hurt she makes her way back to the haram quarters.  

Poor, tragic Tamar.  What a horrible story.  But it doesn’t end there.  Absalom, her full brother takes her out of the haram and into his own home, so she won’t have to walk the halls and see her rapist again.  She has to leave her home, but Amnon gets to remain in his.  Absalom names his beautiful daughter after her, and eventually avenges Tamar by killing Amnon, the perpetrator.  But at this time when she is hurt and broken and her spirit is utterly destroyed, he says, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you?  Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother.  Don’t take this thing to heart.”  It is almost unbelievable that she is told to remain silent, to think about what a scandal this would be on both Amnon and the rest of the royal family, and not to take her rape to heart!  And so, it is no surprise that the Scriptures record “and Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.” (2 Sam 13:20b)

A woman raped.  Broken.  Dreams shattered.  Any future life of marriage and family removed from her.  She is moved from her home and told to be silent. Her father (King David) acknowledges his anger but does nothing to rectify the wrong done.  (2 Sam 13:21) There is no restitution.  There is more care and concern that the story might get out than for what has happened to her.  There is no happy ending.

Sometimes things happen to us in our lives and it appears that no one cares or even sees.  Sometimes the wrong is made worse when we are expected to stay silent and ‘not take it to heart.’  But the story doesn’t end here, because God is the God who sees all.  God is the God of the broken hearted, and the wounded and the afflicted.  Tamar was wrongly silenced, but God placed her name in the Holy Bible for all to see and remember, and her story is not silenced but told well beyond her place in time.  

There is nothing that can be done to us that separates us from the love of God.  His love for us is pure and holy and good.  Eternal love.  Never forgetting us.  Redemptive love.  A Saviour to forgive all of us our sins, and a Father to embrace us in His love.  And one day heaven will be very different than the hurt and heartache and unfairness of this life.  

1 There are 2 women named Tamar in the Bible.  This is not the one mentioned in the lineage of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 1.

September 20 – Eve

This week our devotions are written by Wendy Reaume. We’re excited she’s back and writing for us again.

Eve is our first woman of the Old Testament this week.  The first woman and the last creative act of God the Father during creation.  “But for Adam no suitable helper was found.  So, the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh.  Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man.” (Genesis 2:20b-22)

Genesis 1 begins with the account of creation.  We quickly get an overview of the order, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them,” (Genesis 1:27) and then in chapter 2 we get a more in depth look at the set-up of the garden of Eden and the creation of man.  What is interesting to me about Eve is the difference in the creation of her and Adam.  “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7) This is very different from the making of Eve.  All of creation is fiat meaning ‘it is spoken, and it comes into being.’  But with Adam, God actually takes the dust that is already created, forms it with His hands, and then breathes the breath of life into him.  Of course, God could simply have spoken and had man come into being.  But He doesn’t and this stands in stark contrast to the rest of creation.  The result is this detail to the creation of man highlights the utmost of detail and care, and the supremacy of man over all creation both by the attention given, and the declaration.  God doesn’t say ‘it is good’ (as He does with the rest of creation), but it is VERY good.  

Not so Eve.  God doesn’t simply speak.  God doesn’t take the dust of the ground and form and breath.  He takes Eve directly from Adam’s side.  “But for Adam no suitable helper was found.  So, the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh.  Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man.” (Genesis 2:20b-22)

Again, God is making a statement.  He could have simply created by fiat.  He could have repeated what He did with Adam.  But He purposely does it differently.  Genesis 2:24 further emphasizes this when God writes, ‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.’  That is an interesting statement considering Adam and Eve are the only human beings ever to live on the face of the Earth that don’t have a mother and a father!  Clearly, that directive is for us…all of us who follow.  We are to ‘leave and cleave’ to the one who we are created for literally ‘out of his side.’

The creation story also reiterates it is good, it is good, it is good over and over again.  Then we have the creation of man and woman and it is very good.  But there is one more interjection.  In Genesis 2:18 it is declared, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”  All jokes on why it isn’t good for a man to be alone aside, this is really the ultimate earthly love story.  God creates man.  God parades all the pairs of animals in front of Adam until he sees and feels his need for companionship, and then God takes from the man himself to create the ‘perfect partner for him.’  Not a partner who is perfect, but the perfect partner for him.   

When they first date, couples love to belong to each other.  They hold hands, walk side by side not behind each other, and proudly introduce their future spouse as ‘my girlfriend, my boyfriend, my soulmate, my fiancé, etc.’  They are physically and literally tucked under the arm and at the side.

It takes both male and female to accurately reflect the image of God.  Each has a unique and creative role, and as they work side by side doing ministry, living life, raising their family, and being companions, together they reflect the image of God.  God in three persons; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The image of God in two persons: male and female, husband and wife.

Eve is not just the final creative act of God but the completion of mankind.  What a role to embrace!  Today as the world fights for equality, rights, freedom of choices and attempts to redefine our worth, let us rest in the truth that God already had it figured out.  Together, male and female, we reflect His image.  Each one of us is unique not just in our gender but in our calling to do good works to the glory of His name, that those lost and confused around us might see our love for each other, our embracing of who we are, and in doing so, come to know Him.

“A new command I give you; Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34, 35)

Let this command to love one another begin with our self, and with our spouse.  

July 23 – Jezebel

Our grandmother from yesterday’s Bible passage was a horrible woman.  Her concern was very much for herself to the point of seeking out her grandsons and destroying them so she could have the throne. It should not surprise us to find that her mother is none other than Jezebel of the Old Testament.  Queen Jezebel and the lessons we will learn from her today are a warning.  When we don’t follow the way of the Lord, we don’t just coast through life.  Much damage follows in our wake and being given over to our own drives and desires can be quite a scary thing as we will see in the life of Queen Jezebel. 1

Jezebel is the daughter of the king of Tyre (a city in what is now Lebanon) and her great contribution to society was to try to introduce the worship of Tyrian Baal as the state religion of Israel.  Yes, the state religion of God’s people.  Any prophet who didn’t forward the cause of Baal was put to the sword.  She had a bounty out on the head of every man of Yahweh to the point that they were being hidden away in caves‘While Jezebel was killing off the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.’ 1 Kings 18: 4  

Jezebel’s husband King Ahab is the 7th king of Israel, but it is she who rules the nation.  This one verse in the Bible says it all.  1 King 21:25 ‘There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel, his wife.’   What a horrible epitaph.  Who wants to be known as the wife who urged her husband on to do evil?  I encourage you to read the following passages to get a full picture of Jezebel and her wicked endeavors which include:

  1. She was involved in both idolatry and witchcraft.  2 Kings 9:22
  2. She threatened Elijah, the prophet of God saying, ‘May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.’ [dead prophet] 1 Kings 19:2
  3. She slayed as many prophets of the Lord as she could find. 1 Kings 18
  4. She rebuked her husband and demanded that he ‘act like a king’ 1 Kings 21
  5. She orchestrated a death in order to secure a vineyard that the owner didn’t want to sell. 1 Kings 21
  6. She wrote letters to the elders and nobles of the city telling them what they were to do and how to do it. 1 Kings 21
  7. She became a standard for wickedness, and as such is mentioned again in Revelation, as returning and seducing God’s servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols.  Rev. 2:20

The lesson from this woman of the Old Testament is a warning.  If we choose to not obey the Lord, we will affect far more lives than just our own.  The grandma who slaughtered her grandsons learned at the feet of her mother Jezebel.2  How we live is what we will teach our children.  We are all very familiar with how parents’ actions and words get repeated in the kindergarten classes of their little ones!  Now, our choices are not going to be as drastic as in the life of Jezebel.  I doubt any of us will pursue ministers of God to have them killed or write a letter to the mayor of the city telling him what to do.  But we will have an effect on our family.  Our lack of zeal for the things of God will affect our marriages.  The next generation will grow up under the influence of our attitudes, actions and apathy.   We have all heard it said, ‘she is just like her mother,’ ‘he takes after his father,’ and even ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.’  Whether it is the evil of setting up altars to Baal or teaching our children to worship at the altars of selfishness, greed and apathy, our actions will affect those around us.

But don’t lose heart.  Did you know there is another who pursued men of God to see them imprisoned and put to death? 

‘Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.  He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.’ Acts 9:1,2

Yes, the apostle Paul, writer of about one third of the New Testament basically started out the same way.  It was after his encounter with the living Christ (Acts 9:3ff) that he became such a blessing and example for us to follow.  God, in His goodness, always provides a stop and reboot if we humble ourselves, confess and start the journey again with our eyes on Him.  As we daily encounter the living Christ and let Him lead and direct our lives through His Word, our epitaph will be one of honour to Him.

Our woman of the Old Testament is Jezebel.  May we remember her example as someone NOT to follow.  May we be stopped in our tracks when we go astray, and instead be used by God to impress the next generation and those around us with truth and blessing, to the glory of God.

 1 Queen Jezebel married King Ahab.  Ahab was a wicked king and is probably best known for the battle between his god, Baal, and Elijah calling on Yahweh at Mt. Carmel.  Grandma Athaliah is either their daughter, or King Ahab’s sister.  Thus, Jezebel is either the mother or sister-in-law of wicked Grandma Athaliah.

2 It is unclear if Jezebel is her mother or her sister-in-law.  Either way, her wicked ways and lack of concern and love for family has been passed on to the next generation.

July 22 – Jehosheba

Today’s devotional comes from a Biblical soap opera.  In this real-life account, we meet a woman of the Old Testament who does just the opposite of yesterday’s sisters.  This woman has a chance to move up in the world but goes to great lengths to see that position goes to a male instead.

The full story can be found in 2 Kings 11 and repeated in 2 Chronicles 22-24, and quite honestly reads a little bit like a Shakespearean play.

Joash—one-year old male 
Ahaziah—8th king of the Northern Kingdom and father to Joash, and son of Athaliah
Jehosheba—sister to Ahaziah, aunt to Joash
Jehoiada—husband to Jehosheba and uncle to Joash
Athaliah—mother of Ahaziah and grandmother of Joash

SCENE ONE:  King Ahaziah is killed and seeing that her son has died, Athaliah proceeds to wipe out the entire royal family including her grandsons.  Aunt Jehosheba grabs her one-year old nephew Joash and hides him away for safety.  Grandma rules the land.

 2 Kings 11: 1-3 When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so, he was not killed.He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the Lord for six years while Athaliah ruled the land.

SCENE TWO:  After 6 years of rule under Athaliah, Jehosheba’s husband (Uncle Jehoiada) leads a well-planned takeover and Joash is rightly crowned king.  Shouts of ‘treason’ fill the air, but Grandma/ruler Athaliah is put to death and 7-year-old Joash is now king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

2 Kings 11:12-16 Jehoiada brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him; he presented him with a copy of the covenant and proclaimed him king. They anointed him, and the people clapped their hands and shouted, “Long live the king!”  13 When Athaliah heard the noise made by the guards and the people, she went to the people at the temple of the Lord. 14 She looked and there was the king, standing by the pillar, as the custom was. The officers and the trumpeters were beside the king, and all the people of the land were rejoicing and blowing trumpets. Then Athaliah tore her robes and called out, “Treason! Treason!  Jehoiada the priest ordered the commanders of units of a hundred, who were in charge of the troops: “Bring her out between the ranks and put to the sword anyone who follows her.” For the priest had said, “She must not be put to death in the temple of the Lord.” 16 So they seized her as she reached the place where the horses enter the palace grounds, and there she was put to death.

SCENE THREE:  The rightful heir is on the throne, and for the first part of his reign, does good in the eyes of the Lord, including pulling down the temples and altars to Baal.  
Our woman of the Old Testament is Princess Jehosheba, daughter of a King and sister to a king.  When her brother is killed and the whole royal family is to be murdered, rather than protect herself, she puts her life at risk to save her one-year-old nephew.  She recognizes that although she could now fight or wait for a claim to the throne, it rightfully belongs to the line of another and she puts her own dreams or success aside.  She chooses to follow God’s plan for Israel rather than seeking prosperity and advance for herself.  Despite the danger, she secretly raises her nephew in the temple, preparing for the day when he can be re-established as the rightful heir to the throne.

Yesterday we looked at 5 women who boldly asked God for what was rightfully theirs.  Today we look at Princess Jehosheba who boldly submits to God’s plan rather than taking what could easily (but not rightly) be hers.  What do these women have in common?  To borrow a statement from another, they followed God’s plan over the world’s narrative.

The world’s narrative preaches a version of morality where every man is a law unto himself; everything is acceptable as long as it is about love and an embracing of diversity.  God’s Word sets forth many rights and wrongs with reference to morality, and He expects us to follow these tenants unswervingly.  The world’s narrative says, ‘Stand up for your rights.  Fight for choice.’  God’s Word says, ‘My choice is to be your choice.  I know best.’  The world’s narrative tells us all love is good, your happiness is what matters, and if you are doing it right you will be healthy, wealthy and wise.’  God’s Word says, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love,’ ‘my wisdom is foolishness to the world,’ and ‘be careful to do everything written in it [Bible]; then you will be prosperous and successful.’

One day soon even the church will be required to choose.  And when that battle comes, will we stand on the Word of God and follow Him, or will we look at the ease and advantages and choose the world’s narrative?  It may be about tithing and tax receipts.  It may be about when and how we can meet together.  It may be lenient requirements for leaders and Pastors that conflict with the guidelines set forth in the Scriptures.  It may come disguised as love and we may be challenged to search the Scriptures to see what our stand, in love, needs to be.  Regardless of which war it is, let us pray we have the courage and bravery of Princess Jehosheba to choose God’s plan first when the battle is on our doorstep.

July 21 – Noah

This week we are focusing on women of the Old Testament. Some will be familiar to you, like Abigail, and others may be new to you, including a woman named ‘Noah.’   These 5 sisters are our next women of the Old Testament and they are found in Numbers 27, just proceeding the commissioning ceremony of Joshua where Moses anoints and appoints him as the next leader of Israel.

Numbers 27: 1-11
The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, belonged to the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. They came forward and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said,“Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among Korah’s followers, who banded together against the Lord, but he died for his own sin and left no sons. Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.”

So Moses brought their case before the Lord, and the Lord said to him, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them.“Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter. If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers.11 If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to have the force of law for the Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.’”

Here we have 5 sisters, descendants of Joseph, who have found themselves orphaned and unmarried when their father dies.  The custom of that time forbade a woman from owning property.  This meant that their father’s land and his inheritance would be passed to someone else and not to them, simply because they were unmarried and female.  This practise of inequality is not just found here in the Old Testament.  When John and I worked in youth ministry at the University of Western Ontario, we met a young man from Lebanon.  He had defected from a civil war that saw all his classmates except one die in the first few months. When his father passed away, the only way his mother could claim the family home and their savings was if the only son returned back to Lebanon and stood in his father’s place.  This, of course, would also require prison for defecting.  His mother lived in poverty despite the size of her husband’s estate until her son was granted a visa to bring her to Canada.

There are many instances of inequality in our world today.  Some are justified complaints, and some not so much.  However, the important thing here is to see the principles that Noah and her sisters implemented.  Let’s look at what they do:

  1.  They stood before Moses, Eleazor the priest, the leaders, and the whole assembly in one spot at one time and presented their case. 
  2. They were in agreement with each other as sisters.  
  3. They asked the God appointed leadership of the day to consider their case.  What society thought was irrelevant.  They came to the leadership with confidence.
  4. The leadership did not make a decision.  Moses brought their case before the Lord and sought God’s reply.
  5. When God spoke and the verdict was in favour of the women, the leadership and all those in attendance recognized God’s way as supreme over the cultural laws and norms.
  6. God went a step farther and solved this dilemma for others who may find themselves in a similar circumstance.
  7. The new law (directly from God) surpassed this single case.  It set a precedent that removed the male superiority over inheritance.
  8. On a second request, God set boundaries.  The women respected these boundaries not because they were in agreement with them, but because they came from God.

These women didn’t grumble, moan, complain, demand, march or demonstrate.  They came up with a respectful plan and put it into place, making sure that the message was clear to all.  These women saw societal practises as irrelevant when seeking God’s will.  At the same time, they respected God’s boundaries.  After this law was communicated and put into effect, others came and asked that the girls marry within their tribal clan so the land would stay allotted within its ancestral tribe or clan of Israel.  Every 50th year was deemed the Year of Jubilee (7×7) and land would revert back to the father’s tribal clan.  If the women married outside of the tribe of Manasseh, come year 50 that ancestral land would no longer revert back but would become part of the inheritance of a different tribe.   Once again, the leadership sought the Lord, and God gave a ruling.  The girls could marry whomever they wished, but it needed to be a male within the same tribe.  They agreed because they were interested in doing God’s will, not just in changing society in the name of ‘my rights.’  (Numbers 38)

The application for us is clear.  We are to live our lives in accordance with God’s will and not societal norms.  We should measure our decisions by what God says, and not what society deems acceptable or unacceptable.  The example here for church leadership is to take any questions to the Word of God and use that as the determining factor: not society, not culture, not tradition.  On the other hand, we shouldn’t fight against what God has put in place as boundaries.  We live according to His will and not by what we prefer, wish or believe to be true.  God’s truth is truth for all.  He cares for us, is wiser than us, and desires us all to be free.  Real freedom to play comes not in a room or on an acreage, but in a yard with a God built fence.

July 20 – Abigail: Part 2

Yesterday we met Nabal, whose name means ‘fool,’ and his wife Abigail.  After hurling insults at David and his men, Nabal has put his whole family at risk of being killed in the anger of retaliation.  If it wasn’t for Abigail stepping in and appeasing King David with her words and her gift of food for his army, not one male of her whole household would have been left alive by morning. (1 Samuel 25) Now Abigail has one more thing to do.  Remember that ‘wicked man that no one can talk to?’ She now has to return home and tell her husband that she totally disrespected his wishes and did the very thing he was so against.  In addition, she needs to inform him that she used his resources in the process!  We pick up the story in 1 Samuel 25:36.

 36 When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So, she told him nothing at all until daybreak. 37 Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him, and he became like a stone. 38 About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died.

Nabal is either feeling very powerful or is very naïve.  His whole household has just been on the brink of being wiped out, and he is not only holding an opulent banquet, but it isn’t to drown his sorrows.  He is in high spirits and drunk.  What does wise Abigail do?  Nothing at all.  She simply leaves without saying a word about what has transpired and goes to bed.  This woman of the Old Testament is very wise!  Why engage in a conversation with a drunk man?  He isn’t reasonable at the best of times, so why would you expect him to be so now?  What I like about Abigail here is she seems sure of herself, but not in a prideful way.  She exudes confidence that she has acted according to God’s will and seems to draw her confidence from that fact. She isn’t married to a man who is kind, let alone seeks the Lord’s way, but that doesn’t stop her from being who God wants her to be.  She also does not seem to be afraid of him because she went to him right away and we know that she does tell him at daybreak.  I have never seen my husband drunk given that he doesn’t drink, and his name is John not Nabal, but I have been in situations where I am right and he is wrong, and I’m confident that I didn’t have the same reaction.  All too often I am itching to argue.  All too often I am willing to point out my ‘win.’  Abigail has literally saved the day, but off to bed she goes.  Her interest seems to be in doing what is right and kind and good.  God’s way.

Remember when Abigail first came upon King David?  We are told 23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say.”  She is respectful.  She is wisely defusing a volatile situation.  She isn’t fighting against every man.  She is humbling herself. 

The next morning Abigail tells her now sober husband what she has done, and the result is he has a heart attack or stroke.  His heart fails him, and he became ‘like a stone.’  For about 10 days Nabal cannot move or speak, but he most likely can think and has more than enough time to reflect on how he has lived his life.  He has more than enough time to process what his wife has done while God halts him from being able to respond.  Approximately 10 days later God strikes him, and he dies, not because of the heart attack, but because God says so.  In King David’s words, “He has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”

39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.” Then, David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. 40 His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.”41 She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” 42 Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five female servants, went with David’s messengers and became his wife.

Abigail so impressed King David with her level-headed and practical, kind response that he actually asked her to marry him.  And she said yes.  
By God’s grace may we all learn to be more like Abigail and less like Nabal in our interactions with those at home and those we meet out in the world.  To coin a popular phrase, in a world where you can choose to be anything, be kind.

July 19 – The story of Abigail: Part One

This week, we are going to enjoy a series of devotions bases on women in the Old Testament. Thank you, Wendy, for being part of our devotions team.


Abigail is an interesting woman of the Old Testament.  She actually becomes the wife of King David, but in the Biblical account we will look at today, she is married to Nabal and upon meeting King David for the first time tells David, “Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him.”  This is certainly not the way I would expect a wife to talk about her husband!  Let’s turn to 2 Samuel 25 and read ‘the rest of the story.’

1 Samuel 25:  Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Paran.A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel.His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail.  She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite.While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!“‘Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore, be favorable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’”When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited.10 Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. 11 Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers and give it to men coming from who knows where?”12 David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. 13 David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So, they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies.14 One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. 15 Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. 16 Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. 17 Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”

Abigail knows that her husband has acted rudely and wickedly.  He snubbed the protection they had received and failed to observe cultural protocols.  In doing so to the King, he has put them all in danger.  I love the next 2 verses:

18 Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five measures of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 

Ah, yes!  Let me quickly bake 200 loaves of bread, slaughter, clean and cook 5 sheep, and along with all the other foods I have gathered, load them onto the donkeys!  Living in a time of no ‘skip the dishes’ she makes a plan, focuses on fulfilling that plan and then ‘ubers’ the take-out order directly to David’s men.  Yes, she is going to appease the men with food.  Additionally, all this time she said not a word to her hubby.  She did not reprimand him for his foolish actions which put them all in danger.  She did not ask his permission to rectify the situation.  She did not let him in on her plan.  She just moves.  And in doing so, she saves her family, her servants and all her male relatives from being killed in retaliation.  She also saves King David from what could be the biggest mistake of his life.

19 Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.20 As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. 21 David had just said, “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. 22 May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”

23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. 25 Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. 26 And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. 27 And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.

28 “Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. 30 When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel,31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”

Abigail not only thinks and acts wisely, she speaks wisely too.  Note the purple verses.  She chooses her words carefully to almost ‘manipulate’ David into seeing the folly of his plan.  And it works. 

32 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”35 Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.”

God uses Abigail to appease the anger of David.  It is because of her humility (bowing down), wisdom, quick thinking, quick provision and carefully chosen words that David, who has just vowed to annihilate this family instead says, “If you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive at daybreak.” 

Abigail shows us that God expects us to use wisdom and take action when appropriate.  It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman; you can be used greatly by God to bring about His desired result.  One person can really mess it up [Nabal] but another can step in and not just be resigned to the consequences.  The same is true in our relationship to God.  We can really mess it up, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story.  God is always ready to relent should we come to Him with confession and a repentant heart.  “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14.

June 18 – Jeremiah: A Heart of Flesh

A New Covenant

31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” –Jeremiah 31:31-34

 24” For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. 28 Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.” —Ezekiel 36:24-28

We live in a very different time than the prophet Jeremiah. We live in the fulfillment of what he was preaching, that a new covenant was coming where the law would no longer be a set of rules to follow but would be written on our hearts; a heart of flesh. We live in the fulfillment of the promised Holy Spirit; that God will put His Spirit within us, and He will lead and guide us as we walk in the truth.

Jeremiah is a book like no other. God’s chosen people outwardly carry on with their traditions and worship, but inwardly have no love or concern for their God. They have gone to the depths of offering their children to the god of Baal1, which was a horrible sacrificial system. Speaking of this practise God says in Jeremiah 19:5 that His people ‘have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I did not command nor speak of, nor did it ever enter My mind.’ These depraved people have abandoned God in their hearts although they still show up at the temple and go through many of the written ordinances. They have thought of ways to ‘seek god’ and to ‘please god’ that are so wicked that God Himself says, ‘nor did it ever enter My mind [to do such things.]’

It is in this context that God tells us that although He will punish this unspeakable sin, He will not abandon His creation. There will be a time when we no longer have to be taught right and

1 Molech or Moloch, also Baal; a word combining the Hebrew constants for King and Shame

wrong solely through commands written on stone, but instead, the Holy Spirit will touch our hearts and once we have Christ, will dwell within us. We live in this time today.

We have the undeniable natural revelation that God exists (nature itself): ‘The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.’—Romans 1:20

We have the moral law of right and wrong written on our hearts. Although we may disagree on some things, all of us will react when someone steals from us, or crashes into our car because they are drunk and driving, and we will say, “It’s wrong. It’s your fault. You cannot do that.” We see this when the gospel goes to other cultures and we don’t want to change their culture (such as clothing, food, music) but do change the chief’s right to rape or own the teenage girls. We have a moral law of right and wrong written on our hearts.

As believers, we have the Bible, but we also have the Holy Spirit within us to lead and guide us. As we study His word, He will help us to understand. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.14 He will glorify me [Jesus] because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”—John 16:13-15

We live in a lost and depraved society, but not because it needs to be lost and depraved. We have a heart of flesh. Those who have received Christ have the very Holy Spirit of God living within them. And nature around us testifies that there is a powerful and intelligent being behind all of this. What a blessing to us.

Jeremiah wept because the people would not dig deep. They would not let their hearts follow their outward acts of worship and as a result, became involved in some pretty horrible ‘acts of worship.’ I wonder as God looks at my life, does He weep because my days become too busy to let His word truly penetrate into my heart of flesh? When He asks me to be quiet and listen, do I speak? When I hear mean or unfounded things, do I pray or repeat them? When I see a promise in His Word, do I trust it? A command, do I follow it?

I encourage you to be a child of God who cherishes the heart of flesh. Ask God to reveal to you the areas that are hardened and tough, and when He does so, to be thankful and proactive rather than pouty and resentful. After all, the heart of flesh came at a great cost. Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins. It is by His blood that we have been sprinkled and made clean. He had to leave to send the Holy Spirit, the promised comforter who would lead and guide. (John 16:7) Let’s not forget how far those before us have fallen because of hardened hearts. But for the grace of God, we too could perform beautifully on the outside, but neglect the heart of the matter. ‘I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’

June 17 – Jeremiah: A Touch of Loving Kindness to a Weeping Prophet

Chicken Soup for the Soul was hugely successful because it was a compilation of stories that touched the heart and showed the ‘human kindness’ side of humanity. That is how I felt reading today’s passage. Today’s passage about the life of Jeremiah is one of the most touching things I read in the Scriptures.

Jeremiah prophesied halfway through the reign of King Josiah. King Josiah was nothing like his father or the Jewish kings and culture before him. He became King at 8 years old and we are told he began to seek the Lord and restore the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 34:3). In doing so, the workers found the lost and forgotten Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy & Numbers). Josiah had it read aloud, tore his clothing, grieved and desired to turn the people of God back to true faith. He had Asherah poles torn down, temples cleaned out and led the people in a Passover celebration like none before. It is during this time and the reign of 4 wicked kings following that Jeremiah preaches and predicts the destruction of Jerusalem and captivity of the people of Israel if they do not sincerely turn from their ways. We know, of course, that he preaches this message throughout the whole of this time, only to witness the captivity and exile of God’s people to Babylon.

Jeremiah is called in privately to speak with the king, and he makes it clear that it is now too late, and the people of Israel must leave the city or stay and be destroyed. This message is neither appreciated nor heeded:

Then the officials said to the king, “This man should be put to death.He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.”

“He is in your hands,”King Zedekiah answered. “The king can do nothing to oppose you.”

So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard.They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it,only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.

But Ebed-Melek, a Cushite, an official in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate,Ebed-Melek went out of the palace and said to him,“My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern,where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.”

10 Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”

11 So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropesto Jeremiah in the cistern.12 Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did so,13 and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard. (Jeremiah 38:4-13)

These are the words that jumped off of the page as if I had never read them before: “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Imagine being lowered down into a deep, empty old well and left to die. The bottom of the well is mucky and wet, for we are told that Jeremiah sunk down into it. Imagine being so frightened of the darkness, starvation, sinking further, being unable to lay down or sit because of the sinking mud, and being utterly and totally alone. Now, if someone threw me a rope to tie around myself or to use to climb out, I can guarantee I would make it work. I’d grasp that rope for dear life, climb against the walls, and the knots holding me in would be so secure I wouldn’t care if my whole body was rope burned—as long as I made it out.

Whoever this Ebed-Melek is, we know that he didn’t believe Jeremiah’s message. Remember that Jeremiah was told that not one would listen to or take heed to his words. And yet this man is touched by Jeremiah’s predicament and not only sees that he is removed from the well, but he cares that the old man isn’t hurt in the process. Jeremiah is old. He is feeble. And the respect shown here, the kindness and consideration must have done much to encourage him and make him feel loved. On first reading, my thought was that Jeremiah was maybe stripped naked, or his clothes would be all muddy. But it is a consideration deeper than that. Ebed-Melek is concerned that Jeremiah is not further hurt as he is lifted out. It took thought, action and actually going to the room below the treasury before rushing off to the cistern.

Mark Twain says, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” I wonder how much hope and encouragement our simple acts of kindness bring.

For I [Jesus] was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matt. 25:35-40)

Never, ever underestimate your little acts of kindness. God felt it important enough that we are told of the kindness of Ebed-Melech in the Bible. And today may He bless you as you act as His hands and feet through many simple acts of kindness to the hurting and lost world around you.

June 16 – Jeremiah Went Down to the Potter’s House

Every now and then in Scripture we get a beautiful picture of God the Father in relationship to us. In the Proverbs He is a strong tower that we run into for protection, and in the Psalms, He is likened to a mother hen with her chicks tucked safely under her wings. (Proverbs 18:10; Psalms 91:4) The Gospels show Christ as the Shepherd and us as the sheep or Jesus as the vine, we are the branches and God the gardener. (John 10; 15) And here in Jeremiah, God is the potter, and we are the clay. Today’s lesson and encouragement comes from Jeremiah 18:1-6:

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:“Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so, the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.

Romans 9:21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

Allegories can only be taken so far when drawing parallels. They are not written to be an ‘all inclusive’ picture of God. However, there are some clear principles that we can draw.

  1. It is the potter and not the clay who is in total control. It is the potter who is determining what the clay will become. We are told, “the potter shaped it [clay] into another pot, as seemed BEST to HIM.”
  2. The potter has a plan. He knows what he desires to make, and he keeps shaping and reshaping until the clay represents what he wants it to be. “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” He can change His intention with the clay (Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?…if, then I will relent…if, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.)
  3. The potter does not have the same plans in mind for all of the clay. Some pieces will be pieces of beauty and great use. Others will be necessary but not very glamorous. However, it is the potter who decides and the potter who will declare the purpose.

Let’s bring this down to our lives. We are the clay. God the Father is the potter. He is in total control. He has a plan. That plan is not the same for each of us. Firstly, He made the clay. Secondly, He knows what He wants to do with the clay and will mould it and remould it, squish it, squash it and start all over again patiently working the clay until it softens and yields under His touch and becomes exactly what He wants it to be. As a spiritual lesson, God can have one plan for us, but if we repent, He has the freedom to change the outcome. Likewise, if we don’t listen and follow Him, He has the right to not send the blessings He has promised. Thirdly, it is not a random piece of abstract art. God has a purpose in mind, and that clay will fulfill His purpose. When He starts to work the clay, the Potter has in mind what it is to become. Fourthly, the Potter will not make a single piece in replica with all the clay. Perhaps the vessel will be formed and cracked and allow the light inside to shine out. Maybe it will be worked paper thin and allow the light within to glow through. Maybe it will be a vessel to hold the best wine or refreshing, cool water for a thirsty king. Maybe it will be a chamber pot. Each one will be unique in style and purpose. Fifthly, it will be a vessel of honour when it fulfills its purpose. A jug to hold water will do just that. A chamber pot will be just that. A lamp will hold oil and give off light. A plate will serve to hold the Passover lamb. And just as a lamp is successful burning oil, it is equally unsuccessful as a chamber pot. And just as a chamber pot is a welcome addition in a prison or under a bed, a plate would not receive the same welcome.

He is the Potter. We are the clay. Jeremiah was a vessel chosen and planned and ordained before he even came to be. His purpose was to preach repentance and restoration to a stubborn and bull-headed people. I was a vessel chosen and planned and ordained to be involved in evangelism and discipleship. And as a vessel, I was successful to the degree that I fulfilled that purpose. And you? God chose and planned and ordained you to be who you are, right where you are, doing what He called you to do as you follow Him and bring Him glory. As clay, we don’t make the rules. As clay, we can’t compare one to the other. As Potter, He shapes us and molds us and sometimes has to start all over again re-centring us in the middle of His wheel, but He will because He is intimately involved in shaping our lives to His Glory. As a vessel for God, we are successful not when we match someone else’s purpose, but when we fulfill the purpose of our vessel as made by the Potter.

He is the potter. We are the clay. May we be vessels to shine for Him by fulfilling His purpose for our shape whatever that may be.

June 15 – Jeremiah: The Definition of Success

As a missionary, I know that often the fruit we see is the work of those who have come before us. I also know that much of what we do in outreach and relationship building will be left for others to reap. The Bible even tells us this will be so: I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Cor. 3:6-9) and, “Thus the saying, ‘One sows, and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour.” (John 4:37,38)

These verses are a comfort and a reminder to all of us, that a bigger plan is at work, and what we are doing in our daily lives contributes to that plan. But it is the fruit we see that really makes us feel like we are being successful in our Christian walk. As people begin to trust in Christ, as churches are planted, and Bible studies grow in number our efforts are validated. But is this a true measure of Biblical success?

Probably the most common thing I hear in ministry is people who are hurting because they don’t feel good enough or special enough to be destined to do ‘great things for God.’ They plug away alongside the local church but don’t really feel like what they do makes a real difference for God. We all do it whether we mean to or not. We feel like failures when we sow but never reap. We feel inadequate because we don’t sow as well as someone else. We hold a high standard to ourselves, and a higher one to those in ‘full time ministry.’ Pastor’s kids are expected to not struggle with the same teenage issues as ‘normal’ teens. Missionaries are put on pedestals and apparently spend all their money on purchases at the Christian Bookstore, or in giving back to the poor. And a television preacher is deemed worthy because of the number of his followers and not by the content of his message. We set up pedestals and beat up our own feeble efforts at not reaching a higher standard.

I am here to tell you that by the standard we judge ourselves, poor Jeremiah failed horrifically. Did you know he preached his whole life long and not one life was changed? Even worse, not one person even listened! He lived during and after the reign of King Josiah, and despite all the outward reforms, not one heart did Jeremiah convert. In fact, he was even left behind after God’s chosen people were carried away into exile and he spent the remainder of his life mourning over the wasteland of Israel and the destruction of the temple, still trying to plant hope. He didn’t even go with them to keep preaching. What a waste of time! What a waste of resources! What a waste of a life! OR was it??

What is Biblical success? This is an important question in reference to the life of Jeremiah. This is an important question in reference to the life of you and me. The truth is, if Jeremiah wasn’t known as a major prophet, I’m not sure I would think that highly of what he ‘chose’ to do with his life.

But God’s standard is never man’s standard. We have already seen from yesterday’s devotion that Jeremiah was chosen before his birth, and he walked in obedience to God and with the heart of God. Is that Biblical success? To do as you are told? To love as God Himself loves?

Joshua 1:8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

God wrote that.

1 Kings 2:3 And observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.

God wrote that.

And in talking to King David God says: Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the LORD gave Moses for Israel. (1 Chron. 22:13)

It appears that to God, success is not in results and numbers and how great we do God’s job for Him. Success lay, rather, in simply knowing His Word and walking in it. Now it is important to note here that the Pharisees were really good at the knowing part. They knew the law and kept it to the letter. But walking in His ways meant being touched and filled by the Spirit of God. It is the law written on a heart of flesh, not stone. The fruit of evangelism is one fruit; the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is another.

Our efforts to plant the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit are never wasted. Whether it is preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ or doing a good deed to show the love of God in action, we have obeyed. The goal of course is repentant hearts, coming one step closer to truly understanding the love of the Father, and even salvation. But that isn’t the promise. The promise is simply, “I, God, created and know you.” And the response needs to be, “Here I am, send me.”

Jeremiah says, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, I do not know how to speak. I am only a child.” His Father and God responds, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.” It is obedience in relationship.

I remember leaving for the mission field with a 4 and 2-year-old and already feeling like a failure because I had given birth in a hospital and not in some mud hut in the bush. But by the Biblical definition, I was already successful before I even stepped off of the plane. I had read God’s Word. I had obeyed where He had called. I was a child that didn’t even know how to speak but was willing to say whatever He commanded me, because of my relationship with my Heavenly Father.

If Jeremiah was successful based on his obedience and trust in God, don’t let yourself be swayed by the lack of lustre for the job God has for you. It is God who lays out the task. It is in knowing Him that we are to trust and to obey. And therein lies Biblical success.

June 14 – Jeremiah: The God who Knows

Before we start the devotions today, I want to thank all of you who posted the verse last Thursday that helps you face difficult times. It was uplifting to read through those verses and be reassured of God’s strength and love. – Audrey

“The word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’” Jer.1:4,5

Before Jeremiah was even formed in the womb, God knew who he would be. God set him apart, laid out his job description and really all that was left was for Jeremiah to be conceived, born and to obey. It sounds like the introduction to someone destined to be great! God pre-determined and carefully chose the perfect one for this position. He knows them and chooses them, and the path is waiting and ready. In reality Jeremiah would be known as the weeping prophet. In reality, he was called by God to preach to the Israelites and to warn them that their sins would be their ruin. He would spend his entire life imploring them to turn from their ways but was forewarned by God that his sermons would fall on deaf ears and not one would reform because of his ministry. NOT ONE person would listen or change. (Jeremiah 25:3) His dying years would be spent reflecting and mourning over the desolation of Jerusalem and the destruction of their beloved temple.

The weeping prophet—this makes my heart sad.

But what is God really saying here in reference to Jeremiah? I think the lesson is twofold. Firstly, obedience doesn’t come easily. Jeremiah is asked to obey in a life-long task that God has for him. Jeremiah’s life would consist of loneliness, being in the stocks, prison, chains, thrown into a cistern, being beaten and zero numbers to report to the sending mission committee. God does not promise him ease. He does not promise him fruit. He does not promise acceptance. He does promise him possible fear, hunger, war, rejection and hardship. But what does Jeremiah do? He obeys.

The second lesson is the ‘condition of the heart’ to go with that outward obedience. Jeremiah’s heart breaks for the people of Israel and he weeps. He weeps because they do not listen. He weeps because they do not change. He weeps because they will not choose God and all that He has planned for them over their own selfish ways and desires. He weeps because He knows the God that knows him. He does weep for the sadness of his calling. He does weep for loneliness and a break from the never-ending depressing results. But mostly he weeps because he has God’s heart for a lost and misguided people. I find it ironic that Jeremiah weeps for a people that do not trust their God and all the good He wants to rain down on them, and yet Jeremiah trusts this same God enough that he dedicates his whole life to a miserable calling.

I am so grateful to God for the book of Jeremiah and its counterpart Lamentations because even when things are toughest and we feel so inadequate or we feel like what we have to contribute doesn’t count, we can read and see that is never the case.

God responds to Jeremiah in these words: “The LORD reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant…Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you.” (Jeremiah 1:9,10,17-19)

Obedience flows from a heart that trusts God. And a soft and weeping heart flows from a relationship that loves people as God loves them. How do we do this? Well, you are doing it now. The first step is knowing Him, and we do that by reading His word. I pray He blesses you richly as you seek to know the One who loves you and knew you even before you were born.