The Widow

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Our woman of the week, like many women in the Bible was unnamed. To help move her story along, let’s give her the name, Hannah, which means honor.

We know that “Hannah” had a son. Let’s call him Josiah, meaning may Yahweh give. Since Hannah had a son, she also had a husband, of course, a husband who could provide for his family. 

Unfortunately, Hannah’s husband died and she is now a widow, a scary place to be in that day and time. Women had very little means to provide for themselves.

Fortunately, she has Josiah who is perhaps old enough to work and provide for the two of them. Hannah must make many adjustments, but she keeps her faith in God to help her.

She worries however, because Josiah has been limping. “Why do you limp so, Josiah?”

“I don’t know,” he says. “I have pain in my hip. If I limp, I don’t feel the pain as much.”

Hannah prepares remedies that might ease the pain, but instead helping, the pain seems to be getting worse. Hannah sits in her bed at night, bending over in earnest prayer for his healing.

Soon, Josiah is only capable of working a few hours each day, then a few hours each week. Their food supply is dwindling, and Josiah’s pain increases. Neighbors help all they can, but many of them are poor as well.

The dreadful day comes when a neighbor runs down the road to Hannah when she is in the garden. “Hannah, Hannah! It’s Josiah. He’s fallen and we can’t get him up.” Hannah drops her basket and runs down the road with the neighbor.

Josiah lays absolutely still beside the road. Hannah falls to her knees and embraces her only son, but his arms are heavy and lifeless; he has no breath left in him. Hannah cries out in agony as she rocks him in her arms. “My son, my son. Oh Josiah, my son.”

Finally, two women help Hannah back to her house. The men borrow a cart from another neighbor and lift Josiah up and on to the cart. Many friends gather to comfort and mourn with Hannah. The body rests at the house where a few women perform the ritual of cleansing.

It is almost more than Hannah can bear. Her husband gone and now her son. What will she do?

Next week—Jesus comes to town.

~ Joyce ~

 

Moses’ Mother

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we discovered that Moses’ mother was Jochebed. (See “Who Was Jochebed?”)

We found her to be quite the innovator by hiding baby Moses from the hand of Pharaoh’s soldiers for three months, then devising a little basket boat in which to hide him in the Nile.

We last found the boat under the watchful of of his sister, Miriam. Perhaps Miriam played along the bank, gathering reeds to make a bracelet or hair band. She kept moving farther and farther away from their house, but still the basket floated among the reeds safely.

To her surprise she heard voices by the bank’s edge. Who were they? Would they see the basket? She looked up and realized she was near the Pharoah’s palace. Imagine her shock to spy the princess!

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Yikes! What should Miriam do now? And how did the princess know it was a Hebrew baby? Ah, yes, remember the Hebrew blanket inside the basket?

Miriam was as imaginative as her mother. She made her appearance and said,

“Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” Exodus 2:7

“Yes, go,” the princess told her. Of course Miriam went to get her own mother. Imagine Jochebed’s thoughts as she raced to the bathing area. What will she do with my baby? What will she do with me? God give me guidance. To her surprise, the princess said,

“Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” Exodus 2:9

Can you believe that? Not only would her baby be protected, but she would get paid for it!

No doubt Jochebed cared for this special child with dedication. Perhaps she made sure Hebrew songs were implanted in his head along with prayers to their Holy God.

Evidently the agreement included returning the baby after he had been weaned. 

When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.” Exodus 2:10 (“Moses” sounds like the Hebrew word for “draw out.”)

It isn’t until Exodus 6:20 that we learn Jochebed’s name and her husband, Amram in the listing of family names, but these few verses in Exodus 2 say much about her creativity and her dedication to her child along with the sacrifice she made.

Oh, that we might be creative and take advantage of the time we’re given with our children and grandchildren, our church children and other young lives we touch.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

 

Who Was Jochebed?

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

This month, let’s explore lessons from lesser-known women in the Bible.

Today’s star lived in the latter years of Egyptian slavery. She and her husband had a son named Aaron. They came from the priestly line of the Levites.

Years before, all was well in the land of Goshen where their people lived. The Hebrews enjoyed the prestige of being a part of the family of Joseph who was second only to the Pharaoh.

Now, over three centuries later, Joseph was long forgotten. The Hebrews were way too prolific at having babies to suit the current Pharaoh, and he feared they would grow too numerous to control. He decreed that all new-born baby boys be thrown into the Nile River.

Enter our star player today…

Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. Exodus 2:1-2

That alone puts her at the top of my list of innovative women. Keeping a new-born quiet for three months requires amazing ingenuity!

The thought struck me that she likely had to keep his presence quiet even from the neighbors. After all, if the soldiers came and threw my baby into the Nile, what right does she have to be keep her baby?

Whatever ideas this mother managed to devise,  she was running out of tricks so her last-ditch effort was to make a little boat for him to float in the Nile among the bull rushes where he might be somewhat protected. 

Gleaning from the expert boat maker, Noah, she made her basket. (Side note—Noah’s ark and this basket are the only two times this construction is mentioned in the Bible.)

But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed him in it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Exodus 2:3-4

Every mother can empathize with this mother. How hard it is to let your child go; find his own way, make his mistakes, learn from them. But in this case, just a baby?

What was running through her mind? I’ll put him there in the daytime and bring him in at night. Or, did she know the area where the princess usually bathed? Could she ever have imagined that the princess would find him and claim him for her own? 

Whatever her thoughts, she decided that anything was better than to be drowned in the Nile. Reaching out in faith, she followed the Pharaoh’s decree, but instead of throwing him in, she snuggled him in a Hebrew blanket inside a waterproof basket. 

Next week, we’ll discover what happened to the baby and his ingenious mother named Jochebed. 

~ Joyce ~

Candy Cane Reminders

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

As you read this, my grandchildren will be gone, the sheets and towels in the washer, and decorations packed away along with the memories of Christmas 2018. 

When I put the last candy canes in the box, I couldn’t help thinking about the legend of the candy cane. You haven’t heard it? Or maybe you’ve heard only parts of it? Perhaps you would enjoy this one last reminder of “the reason for the season.”

THE LEGEND OF THE CANDY CANE

A humble candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a special gift for the King of Kings, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane.

He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.

He began with a stick of pure hard candy to symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Christ,

hard, because the church is built on solid rock,

firm, because God’s promises are a firm foundation.

He formed it in the shape the the letter-J

to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior.

When turned upside down, the “J” could also represent the staff of the Good Shepherd with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.

Then, He added three small stripes to represent the scourging Jesus suffered before He went to the cross.

One large red stripe would remind those with eyes to see and ears to hear of the blood He shed that we might have the promise of eternal life.

It would be a gift of love that would tell His story—

the greatest story ever told!

As we look toward the new year, the old story is never outdated. We must tell it again and again through candy canes, visuals, stories, or whatever creative means we can find.

For the wages of sin is death [spiritual death], but the gift of God is eternal life [spiritual life.] Romans 6:23

Blessings on your New Year!

~ Joyce ~

 

Frazzled in the Season

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I found this very apropos writing in a little book of Christmas collections called “Christmas Joy.” It is an adaptation from I Corinthians 13 by Sharon Jaynes. I thought you would enjoy and appreciate it as the clock ticks down to Christmas.

LOVE, FIRST CORINTHIANS 13-STYLE

If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family—I’m just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozen of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my familyI’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family—it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ,  I have missed the point.

 

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love  is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of your way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails. Video games will break; necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust; but giving the gift of love will endure.

by Sharon Jaynes (www.sharonjaynes.com)

May you move into these final days with love, joy, anticipation, and be completely un-frazzled.

I look forward to my son and his family coming in from South Carolina and joining us along with my daughter and her family from here in Louisville. Seven delightful grandchildren and I’m not one bit prejudiced!

Merry Christmas to all.

~ Joyce ~

Wonderful Counselor

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We think of a counselor as a good thing. Indeed, a competent counselor, especially one with a Christ-filled heart, is a transforming helper.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light… a light has dawned. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:2, 6 

But anything of value is often copied by Satan who puts his mark on it. 

I was reminded of this when I looked up “counselor” in Strong’s concordance. It predictably means “to give advice, to council, to purpose, plan, plot, conspire against.” What? Plot? Conspire against? That’s when I realized how Satan can take a good thing and twist it. Counsel positively, counsel negatively.

I have shared with you in recent months the trials I’ve had with my mother’s health and the grueling long days going to the hospital then rehab. My energy was zapped; my emotions on edge, my mind amuck. Then the mild stroke hit.

Since then, I have made medication changes and included a few rest times in my day. But frustrations with mother’s discontent at her new place has continued to plague me. 

I worried, held on to anxiety, woke in the night unable to get back to sleep, still trying to figure how to take control of things. The Lord revealed over and over, “Trust me.” We all know how hard it is to let go of things. Little by little, I have tried to release my clutched hands and take His hand.

“For I, the Lord, your God, will hold your right hand, saying unto you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:13

He holds our hand, but we must first place our hand in his outstretched hand. 

Then He is able to be our counselor, revealing things we either didn’t know or have let slip by us. Unlike the deceiver, the plotter, the one who conspires against us, Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. He also brings a sense of peace into our lives as he holds our hand.

After all, He’s also the Prince of Peace!

May it be so for you in this celebration season.

~ Joyce ~

God With Us

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week we looked at the name Bethlehem. (See “House of Bread“) We discovered that “beth” means “house of.”

Today, consider the word Immnauel. We see the two letters at the end, “el” meaning God. Turn it around and we have “God – with us.”

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

Let’s look at Mary and Joseph’s story before this great declaration is given. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and reveals; 

“You have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” Luke 1:30-31

 “How can this be,” she asks. The answer? “By the Holy Spirit.”  

Later, Joseph discovers that she is “with child” and knows he is not the father. Joseph doesn’t buy the story and is ready to divorce her quietly. As he sleeps, an angel appears to him in a dream and assures Joseph that this is all in God’s plan.

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, for what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:20-21

I can imagine that once Mary and Joseph are together, they surely share their stories of the two angel visitations. One may say to the other, “I was told to name the child Jesus.” Wide-eyed, the other might say, “I was told the very same thing.” Tears must have come to their eyes with this realization that they have had yet another confirmation of the God’s work in their lives.

We refer to Jesus by many names – Savior, King of Kings, Son of God to name a few. Matthew reminds us of another—Immanuel. Remember the “el” at the end which means God. Look at the verse again.

“…and they [the people] will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

“God with us.” Can anything be better than that? Not God up in heaven. Not God out there somewhere, but God with us.

In Joseph and Mary’s day, the name would be synonymous with Messiah or the Promised One. The promise is quoted in Matthew, but comes straight out of Isaiah. We recognize it as God Himself coming in the earthly form of his Son, Jesus. Think how profound that would be to have God visible, audible, in the flesh. 

We don’t have Jesus audible or visual in the flesh today, but the Holy Spirit ministers to us in similar ways. Look for Him. Listen for Him as you move toward the remembrance of His coming into our world to save us.

~ Joyce ~

House of Bread

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Those of Asian background likely look to rice as their staple food, but in my growing up years, it was potatoes. Mashed, fried, boiled, or baked, we had some kind of potatoes almost every night.

For those in Jesus’ day, the staple was likely bread. Kind of like, “What shall we have with our bread this morning or at lunch or this evening?”

It was such a mainstay of their diet that they often referred to it when talking about having a meal together. “Let us break bread together.” Early Christian believers might think of the last supper and its meaning as they ate. As they gathered together, they…

…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42

It may seem strange to us to think of “breaking” bread. Maybe slicing or tearing. But breaking bread?

A few years ago, we visited Nazareth in Israel at a place called The Nazareth Village. A guide talked to us about the customs and ways Jesus talked to the people about the familiar things around them. Those who put this area together intended it to be as authentic as possible complete with a well, people walking about in biblical clothes, a farmer plowing a field, a shepherd keeping his sheep in tow, and a place to eat lentil soup, figs, hummus, and of course, bread. 

I remember watching the lady bent over a somewhat rounded stove of sorts. She kneaded the dough and flapped it on the hot iron for a bit, then turned it over. The flat,  (maybe 10 inch) circular bread was carried on a flat basket to the table. We each broke off a piece to put on our own plates—not quite the texture of crackers, but close, “cracker bread” you might say.

John tells us that one day the people asked Jesus for a sign, a sign like Moses gave the people in the form of bread from heaven, the manna. Jesus explained to them that eventually the manna-eaters died, but the true bread from heaven…

“…is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:33

“Give us this bread,” they said. Then Jesus told one of his “I am” illustrations.

“I am the bread of life.” John 6:35

Jesus goes on to explain.

“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.” John 6:38, 40

One last thought—”Beth” means “house of.” Therefore, Bethel = house of God. Bethsaida = house of  fishers. Bethlehem = house of bread.

Isn’t it appropriate that Jesus was born in Beth-lehem? House of (the) bread of life.

Prepare your hearts for the coming season!

~ Joyce ~

Thanks Giving

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Four years ago, I read Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. She encouraged readers to begin a journal to list 1,000 things for which you are thankful.

Easy enough, I thought. I bought a long, narrow, cute little book with lines and vowed to list one thanks a day.

I just retrieved the book and found that I had gotten to number 70. (Remember, this was four years ago—sigh.) So I’m hereby renewing my vow in front of God and all my readers to begin again a daily thanks. Two or three words a day is all it takes, Joyce!

I’ll report back next Thanksgiving.

I do believe that if we gave more emphasis to giving thanks for a friend or family member, for instance, rather than finding fault or, just as bad, taking them for granted, we would come to a greater appreciation for that person.

               

If I’m thinking about giving thanks for something, I have to first be aware of it. It can be as simple as looking at a clock and being thankful that I have a way to keep myself on track. I can look at a sunrise and think, “Good morning, Lord. Thanks for waking me up for another new day.”

I often thank God, as I’m driving down the road, for a car that runs well and a tank of gas to get there. I recently thanked Him for the smooth, newly-paved road.

In my little “Thanks Book,” I saw where I had listed each of the grand kids and something about their gifts or their nature for which I gave thanks.

       

I love giving thanks during peak seasons: new green grass and forsythia in the spring, full-grown trees and roses in the summer, lush yellows and oranges in the fall, and snow-lined trees in the winter. But November is a real challenge. I complain about how drab it is. So my goal this week is to find something worth giving thanks as I drive about this dreary month.

Speaking of dreary, one of the greatest challenges is giving thanks during those hectic times (December, for example), or those heart-breaking times, or those times when things are going so wrong. 

O my strength, I sing praise to you; you, my God, are my fortress, my loving God. Psalm 59:17

He may say to you,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” II Corinthians 12:9

My challenge to you is to dig a little deeper in your practice of giving thanks this Thanksgiving day and on into the year to come. Best turkey wishes to you all!

~ Joyce ~

Noah’s Ark – Part 4

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

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12. DON’T MISS THE BOAT. 

Of course, this was one of the most important pieces of advice to heed about Noah’s ark. It was a matter of life or death. We can see the parallel with salvation today. People can make fun of Christians, berate them, or deny their need for the Lord, but it doesn’t change the reality of the need for such a decision. 

How heart breaking it must have been for Noah to hear the taunts of the people outside the ark and then hear their cries for help as they realized they were about to drown.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. Romans 3:23   

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13. REMEMBER THAT THE WOODPECKERS INSIDE ARE OFTEN A BIGGER THREAT THAN THE STORM OUTSIDE.

Just picture a woodpecker on the ark, doing what woodpeckers do. “What’s that noise?” Noah might call out. Everyone scatters, searching out the sound. “It’s a woodpecker!” one son shouts. “Well, get him a piece of wood.” Noah says.

Or maybe one of the wives showed herself to be most contrary, always yapping and complaining about something—woodpecker-like.

Well, we do have those people in our lives, don’t we? Jesus warned us that if we only love those who love us, what good is it? Even pagans do that. Instead,

“In everything you do, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Matthew 7:12  

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14.  IF YOU HAVE TO START OVER, HAVE A FRIEND BY YOUR SIDE.

The rain finally stopped, but more waiting, feeding, and tending followed before the thump of the ark marked the landing on Mt. Ararat. More months before Noah sent the raven , then the dove to find a branch. More waiting for the earth to dry and finally those wonderful words. God called, “Come out of the ark!” 

Can you imagine the feel of the steady earth beneath your feet, the smell of clean fresh air, and the wide open spaces with the vast sky above. Brother slapping brother in jubilant laughter. “We did it! God has protected us and brought us through.”

How precious for us when we have gone through a long dark time to have a friend nearby, encouraging us, then rejoicing with us on the other side.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother [or sister] is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

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15. NO MATTER HOW BLEAK IT LOOKS, THERE’S ALWAYS A RAINBOW ON THE OTHER SIDE!

“… And surely I am with you to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

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Thank you, Lord for the happy times, the times of peace and contentment. And thank you, Lord, for the turbulent times, for it is there that we still find you, teaching us new lessons, speeding up our growth, reminding us that, even in the midst of turmoil, you are there. Thank you that you walk with us through it all, drawing us ever near to you through the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen

~ Joyce ~