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 ~

Noah’s Ark – Part 3

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

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8.  TAKE CARE OF YOUR ANIMALS AS IF THEY WERE THE LAST ONES ON EARTH.

What due diligence Noah must have felt as he cared for the animals. What a weighty responsibility. Future growth depended on it.

Our 21st century animals might include a cat or dog or gerbil. We feed them, walk them, cuddle and play with them. They are our responsibility.

We also have some two-legged “animals” in our homes as well. No matter their age, we are charged with their care. The care list changes through the years but does not diminish. You will always be their mother or father or grandparent or aunt or uncle. Treat them as if they are the last ones on earth. 

“… As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34 (That includes family members!)

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9. DON’T FORGET —  WE’RE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT

I’m reminded during this political election season that we all have differing opinions about a myriad of issues. The moral decline, however, has caused our opinions to take frightening actions and verbiage on all sides. 

May we remember who we are in Christ and that, just as He has allowed us to live in the land of the free, it comes with a commensurate amount of responsibility to love and respect our fellow American citizens. We’re all in the same boat (country.)

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

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10. STAY BELOW DECK DURING THE STORM

Oh, to be counted as a righteous person “who walks with God” as Noah did. I can imagine that it was during one of those knee-bending times that God spoke to Noah and gave  the command to build the ark. As we yield to Him, He reveals in numerous ways what He intends for next steps in our lives.

Then, there are times when He intends us to just plain use common sense. If it’s storming, by golly, seek shelter! And there in our protected place, we find Him near, comforting and guiding—all the while encouraging us to trust Him. 

Can’t you just see Noah hunkered down receiving this comfort and encouragement?

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2

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11. REMEMBER THAT THE ARK WAS BUILT BY AMATEURS AND THE TITANIC WAS BUILT BY PROFESSIONALS

Ah yes, and what was the motivation? Noah was motivated by God and the need to preserve man and animal. The Titanic came out of pride to be the biggest and best.

Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends of flesh for his strength… Jeremiah 17:5 But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. Jeremiah 17:7

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I find myself back to that word trust again. Trust Him in the storms, depend on Him for our motivation, love our fellow boat friends and family. Good goals as we navigate the waters of life.

~ Joyce ~

 

Noah’s Ark – Part 2

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Let’s contemplate more lessons from the ark.

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4. TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE.

Of course we think of the pairs on the ark, but that was mostly for making more pairs to “replenish the earth.” There are other advantages for more than one head. All of us think in unique ways, relate with different methods, and have distinct gifts.

Perhaps one of Noah’s sons was brawny, able to do a lot of heavy lifting. Maybe another son knew how to think in broad terms—how do we get from this stage to the next and what about the final outcome on down the road? The third son may have had detailed skills to figure out how to make holes and pegs to so that the cypress boards would fit together. 

And, of course, Noah’s job may have been to encourage. He was, after all, the one “who found favor with God.” He would be the one to remind them that this task was given by God.

 Jesus used the “pair” idea as well. In the listings of the disciples names, they are usually listed  in the same sets of twos.

…Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two… Mark 6:6-7

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5. SPEED ISN’T ALWAYS AN ADVANTAGE. THE CHEETAHS WERE ON BOARD, BUT SO WERE THE SNAILS.

Yep, they were tall and small, loud and quiet, demanding and gentle. Sounds like a church, doesn’t it? We are what we are, but there are times when we must get along, whether we’re in a boat or a church or—in a country. Let’s learn from the ark experience that to survive, we must learn to live together.

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

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6. IF YOU CANT FIGHT OR FLEE — FLOAT!

We can’t assume with Noah, three sons, and all the wives plus a barrage of animals that there weren’t times of discord. However, with all the work to be done taking care of the animals and themselves, there was little time to fight and they certainly couldn’t flee. No, they just had to float and make the best of it.

What about your family? Do you have disagreements? Is someone not doing their part? Is someone stepping out of line, causing upset? Fighting doesn’t solve the problem. Fleeing just takes the problems elsewhere. Sometimes, just like the boat or the church or our country, we just have to float and learn to deal with our problems.

Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:6

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So from today’s ark experience, we learn to put our heads together and realize that even though we’re all different, we must find ways to get along while floating the boat of life together.

~ Joyce ~