Tags: 1 samuel, bible
1 Samuel 2:23-25
23 So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. 24 No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear spreading among the Lord’s people. 25 If a man sins against another man, God may mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him?”
Here, Eli the priest is admonishing his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, for unlawfully demanding to be given the portion of meat which was to be sacrificed to God. This was against God’s Law, and flew in the face of everything that the Israelites believed–and not only that, these were priest’s sons who were breaking the Law!
Eli is understandably horrified to learn what his sons have been doing. Yet neither of the young men has stopped to think about what they are doing, nor about the ramifications of their deeds. Thus, Eli speaks to them strongly, reminding them that if they sin against God by doing things that God has specifically outlawed, they will have little to no recourse.
To us, the sinful act committed by Eli’s sons might seem silly–why would they keep doing something so obviously wrong? After all, they were priest’s sons and should have known better than anyone not to take the sacrificial meat. But greed likely overtook their better judgment; perhaps they thought that since their father was a priest, they would not get in trouble for taking it.
We, too, can let desire of all sorts cloud our judgment, and we end up sinning without even thinking about it. After all, when we let temporary desires make our decisions, where is there room for prayer and God in our minds? Combine that with the fact that sinning against another person offends God as much as a sin against Himself, and a more complete picture of exactly how dangerous sin is begins to emerge. This is why we have to stay vigilant and truly think out our actions–otherwise, we could end up doing things that neither build nor reflect our faith.no comments May 15th, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: 1 thessalonians, bible
1 Thessalonians 2:13
13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
A Little Bit of History Behind This Verse
To the fledgling church at Thessalonica, Paul writes 1 Thessalonians to encourage them in their newborn faith–he had had to leave the city very suddenly due to persecution, and so he had not gotten to stay with the church and really train them in their faith all that much. Paul did not want them to lose their way or get sucked back into secular thinking, so he sent this letter about six months after establishing the church, reaffirming the gospel as God’s Word.
How the Thessalonians are a Lot Like New Believers Today
In ways, the Thessalonians were in a situation quite like that of modern Christian converts. Very often, new converts get swept up in the fervor of new belief, with mature Christians urging them on and being supportive…that is, until the mature Christians forget about the new convert and move on to the next one who just got saved. Sadly, many not-so-new but not-established Christians get left behind, just treading water in this very new faith, with no one to show them the way to build their relationship with Jesus and begin to trust Him. All they’ve likely been told is that Jesus died for their sins and has washed them clean; all they’ve likely been given is a New Testament or a basic Bible, with very few text notes and historical details, if any.
In this fragile state, new believers can be pulled back into sin or other faith practices, which they had left behind to convert to Christianity. With so little to hold onto and very few people they feel they can talk to about this, they can start to drift into dangerous currents. Paul knew this could happen with the Thessalonians, so he reminds them here that the gospel they received was from God, not just from him. He was the messenger, but God had sent the message; they could trust in that message, and they could trust in God, who was “at work in [they] who believe.”
This affirmation, combined with the strong encouragement and basic explanations of the gospel contained in 1 Thessalonians, helped the new believers believe in the divine message and stay steadier in their faith (though they did need a second letter from Paul to help them further). Similarly, new believers today can use 1 Thessalonians to understand the basics of Christianity and to learn how to grow in their faith. (But a letter cannot take the place of a real human guide to Christianity–thus, why Paul longed to return to Thessalonica as soon as possible, to help them in person.)no comments May 8th, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: bible, psalm
Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.
Here, David is praising God for doing great things (“wonders”) for the Israelite nation, as well as humanity itself. This declaration, however, comes in the midst of David’s plea for help that forms most of Psalm 40–but this is not counter-intuitive. In fact, because David knows that God has done great works before, he knows he can trust God to work wonders in his life even now; he knows God is who He says He is, and will give comfort and aid to the faithful.
We, too, have reason to praise God even when we are going through trials, as David did. Though God may not feel nearby, rest assured He is there–often, our own whirls of emotion and dark, despairing thoughts keep us from feeling His presence. The existence of trials in our lives does not mean God does not exist; He is greater than all problems and supports us through each one we face. If we were to try to “speak and tell of God’s deeds” in our lives, all the little things He takes care of for us each day, we, like David, would find them “too many to declare.” Yet they, too, are wonders, inexplicable except by the grace of God.
David’s Psalm 40, and this verse in particular, reminds us that even when we are in trouble, we can praise God for His greatness and providence, because He has proven over and over that He is able and willing to take care of us.no comments May 1st, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: bible, ephesians
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Though he’s addressing the ancient Ephesians, the apostle Paul could be writing to any modern Christian church. He urges us–not just suggests to us–that we as Christians should live a life that praises God, that is worthy of the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Part of living that God-honoring life is to be “completely humble,” “gentle,” “patient,” and unified in spirit when we Christians deal with each other on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis. We should “bear with one another in love.”
But how often do we see this “Christian love for each other” cast aside in the church when a petty disagreement erupts into a full-on social feud? How often do we see gossip flow around the church faster than encouraging words? And how often in the church do we see impatience, pride, and verbal brutality passing itself off as “honesty,” instead of humility, gentleness, and patience?
The answer: far too often, far more often than any of us would care to admit. We might be Christians, but we still sin, and social sins which occur within the church are sometimes the hardest to expunge because we want to pretend they don’t exist. The Ephesians were having difficulty with this concept, too–this is not a new problem. That’s why Paul wrote to them, to encourage them to relate to each other as Jesus related to us, to see each other as God sees us.
What does this entail? This means forgiving someone who took “our” parking space at church last Sunday, or speaking an encouraging word to that person who never seems to have a good word for anyone. This means accepting a fellow member’s admission of guilt when they have done something wrong, and not holding their past sins over their heads as if we have the power to judge and forgive.
This seems like such a simple concept, but it is VERY hard to enact in real life–thus, why Paul has to repeat it a lot in his letters. We must make an effort, every time we are in church, to see the other people around us as children of God, spiritual works in progress, and to treat them accordingly. That’s how we become ONE family of God, not “a bunch of different social cliques who all happened to show up at the same building on Sunday morning.”no comments April 24th, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: 1 kings, bible, joshua
26 At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the Lord is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest will he set up its gates.”
1 Kings 16:34
34 In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun.
Joshua had destroyed Jericho according to the will of God, as a symbol of what happens to people who practice unrepentant wickedness–it was one of the first sites in Canaan that was cleansed of sin in this way. Afterwards, he pronounces this curse on anybody who would try to rebuild Jericho as the great walled city it had once been, so as to keep the site dedicated to God.
But, inevitably, after a time, the Israelites forgot this as they forgot God, and in 1 Kings we see Hiel of Bethel rebuilding Jericho’s walls, paying for the sin of rebuilding a wicked city just as Joshua had decreed. (This all happened within the reign of King Ahab, who did nearly as much wickedness as the citizens of Jericho had.)
This is not a particularly comforting pair of Scriptures to read, but it makes an important point: God is Almighty, and has power even over the most powerful of men. When we act against Him, we will face consequences, stemming from divine discipline. Hiel’s sons die not because God worked an act of vengeance or evil, but because God disciplined Hiel for grasping at power. (Note: Joshua’s curse is not merely something spoken by man, but something coming from God, since Joshua led the “cleansing force” of the Israelites through Canaan to reclaim the land for God.)
So, when we purposefully do things that are against God, we should not then wonder why distressing things begin to happen in our own lives. This is not God being evil, because that is impossible; it is God disciplining us for going against Him, much as a parent disciplines a child for breaking rules. Sometimes God has to do fairly drastic things to get our attention, because we’re so bent on having our own way, but it is ultimately for our betterment, and for our realignment with God.no comments April 17th, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: acts, bible
24 At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”
25 “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable. 26 The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it ws not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
29 Paul replied, “Short time or long–I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
After Paul has given quite a testimony of what happened to him to change his faith, Festus, the governor, interrupts him; he believes that Paul’s long hours of study on the Scriptures has led him into a manic state. But Paul counters with calm reasoning–everything Paul has said so far can be vetted and researched for its truth, and indeed King Agrippa would know most if not all of the details anyway.
Then Paul asks the king directly (and bravely), “Do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” (Most Jews of the day believed that the Old Testament prophets spoke true when they claimed a coming Messiah–they just didn’t think that Messiah was Jesus.) Now, if Agrippa answers either “Yes” or “No,” he would either be forced to admit Paul was right, or to risk angering the devout Jews of his court by saying he didn’t believe in the prophets. Agrippa chooses to evade the question, answering with some dubiousness, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
Paul’s answer is an example to all Christians–he prays for those listening to receive the kind of blessing that he has experienced through Christ.
When we witness to others, it is not about showing that we’re the best Christians ever, or acting like we’re better than everyone else. It’s about sincerely wanting others to experience the fulfillment and spiritual peace of knowing Jesus. Paul’s life had been changed for the better after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, and he wanted others’ lives to be changed this wonderfully as well.
As Christians, let’s resolve not only to witness to others about Jesus, but to pray for them to receive the peace we enjoy, too. After all, someone else prayerfully shared the gospel with us once, otherwise we would not be Christians ourselves.no comments April 10th, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: bible, isaiah
3 I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. 4 For I knew how stubborn you were; your neck muscles were iron, your forehead was bronze. 5 Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, ‘My images brought them about; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.’
Here, God is rebuking ‘stubborn Israel,’ His people who have gone off and worshipped regional Canaanite deities of metal and wood rather than following God. All the things the prophets spoke of so far have come to pass; Israel as a nation is struggling, yet still they cling to tangible idols, sacrificing to them in a vain effort to change their circumstances, rather than turning back to God and trusting Him.
It’s very easy (and tempting) to laugh at the ancient Israelites for doing this. They knew the right things to do, so why didn’t they just do them? Very easy, indeed, to say these things, until we realize we are doing the same things in the present day. Our idols may not look the same as the Canaanite deities, but we still worship the gods of money, technology, and power, and we often trust in those powers far more than we trust in God. There’s a belief, subtle and insidious, that tells us if we just have enough money/technology/power, we will outrun our problems and trials–and we like to believe in that rather than trusting a God we cannot even see.
The Israelites were doing the same thing, trusting in things they could see, touch, and even create rather than really trusting the God who had brought them out of Egyptian slavery and through the wilderness. And then they wondered why their deities had “abandoned” them! God, through the prophet Isaiah, is proving that He is the only One they can trust, and the only One who has power to help them–if they can just trust in that, and stop running off after the tangible things that are powerless to change anything. We need that reminder, too.no comments April 3rd, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: bible, colossians
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Here, Paul is addressing the members of the fledgling church at Colosse, which had been falling slowly into Gnostic practices and beliefs since the gospel of Jesus had been brought to them. Though pseudo-Christian on the surface, Gnosticism put a lot more importance on both Jewish ceremony/tradition and mystical elements, like ancient knowledge, angel worship, and asceticism. In so doing, they devalued Christ as the Messiah who brought salvation, instead putting primary importance on following ceremonies to the letter, only consuming certain foods and drinks, and having “secret faith knowledge” which could provide salvation, among other things.
The people who believed the gospel of Jesus and the people who believed in the Gnostic practices were understandably at odds, then, and there was quite a lot of confusion and hostility between the two groups. Thus, Paul writes this letter to the Colossians, putting the gospel of Jesus in plain, straightforward words and correcting the false teachings that were getting spread around. This verse encouraged the Colossians to come back together as one body of Christ, to put aside the things that were distracting them from worship and belief.
We need this verse today as much as the Colossians did, though for slightly different reasons. Too often we let all-too-human negativity creep into our worship time, tainting how we relate to other believers; soon enough we’re mentally regarding each other with spite and even hate, while presenting fake smiles to each other on Sunday mornings. (For example: letting local or national politics into the church building at all, which is a recipe for disaster.) Paul’s words in Colossians 3:15 remind us that church is about being a family of God, about being the body of Christ, and not about petty spats or jockeying for more powerful positions. When we remember that and allow God to work, wonderful things happen for which we can truly be thankful!no comments March 27th, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: bible, judges
11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshipped various gods of the peoples around them.
As described in this passage, the Israelites forget about God and go off worshipping the local Canaanite deities (collectively referred to as “the Baals,” since Baal [pronounced "Bay-uhl"] was a god worshipped in many forms in Canaan). God gets pretty angry with them for doing this in the verses immediately following this, and punishes them accordingly; you would think that the Israelites straighten up, and then continue on their God-fearing way for centuries.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. This exact verse and others phrased like it are sprinkled all throughout the Book of Judges, and indeed throughout much of the Old Testament. Once the Israelites are punished for infidelity to God, they straighten up and things are good for the next two decades or so. Then they start slowly falling out of worship with God and turning toward other deities, until the whole Israelite nation has just about turned away from God. Then God has to straighten them out again, and that works for another 20 or 30 years…and the cycle repeats.
Seems pretty silly, right? It does…until we realize we’re guilty of doing the exact same thing in our own lives. There are times we are strongly devoted to God, then times we are complacent in our faith and not so dependent on God anymore, and then there are times when we begin to even doubt God’s ability to help us. And then, gradually, we’re worshipping power, money, or love in place of God–in essence, “serving the Baals” of human desires and things of worldly import instead of God.
It often takes a big shout from God to get us back on track, something that happens in our lives to shake us up and make us realize we need to reconnect with God. Just like the Israelites, we are often called back to God when we are in our darkest hours or deepest crises, when we feel as if there is nowhere else to turn. But it doesn’t have to be that way. God won’t leave a message on our answering machines, but we’ve got a direct line of prayer to Him that we can use any time. And if we call first, He won’t even be mad that we forgot to call for so long–He’ll just be glad to hear from us again.no comments March 20th, 2013 by Robin, in Wednesday in the Word
Tags: bible, luke
38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.
In the passage immediately preceding this, Jesus had driven demons out of a suffering man, who had been literally controlled by them to the point that others had chained him up so that he would not be a danger to others or himself. Thanks to Jesus, he now is freed, both physically and spiritually. No wonder the man now wants to follow Jesus!
But instead of taking the man along on His journey, Jesus simply tells him to go home and tell about what has happened to him, how divine power did what nothing and no one earthly could do for him. It’s assumed that the townspeople know this man’s story and have seen him before, so they will be the first to recognize the massive change in him, and be moved to learn more about this strange personage called “Jesus” who has worked this miracle.
We as individual believers may not have had literal demons driven out of us at the moment we were saved, but we each have a testimony just as life-changing as this man. We all had tremendous spiritual issues that kept us trapped, for years or even decades on end–and then, at some point along our very troubled and desolate road, we met Jesus. Then, the sun came out…or should I say, the Son. (I know it happened this way for me, when I was saved as a child and when I came back into the fold as an adult–life brightened, problems became easier to bear, trials felt less weighty on my shoulders because I knew I could depend on God.)
Jesus’ command for the formerly demon-possessed man, then, is also for us. We should go forth and tell others what Jesus has done for us–because He’s worked miracles in each of our lives, and others will be changed by our testimonies.no comments