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 ~

 

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 ~

Mary – Nothing Is Impossible

          Searching His Word
                 Seeking His Heart

When God gives us what feels like an impossible task, He also gives us encouragement, assurances, even something visible or concrete.

Gabriel gave Mary the message that she was honored by the Most High (God) and that she would bear His son. Here comes the encouragement from Gabriel…

“Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.” Luke 1:36

Here comes the assurance (and a promise), 

“FOR NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD.” Luke 1:37

What a promise for Mary.

Next comes her response. We can see the reason she was chosen—humble surrender to God’s will.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:38

We can’t be sure of the timing, but at some point Mary left to go to the hill country to visit her relative, Elizabeth (maybe an aunt.) Hear Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary. 

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” Luke 1:42-44

To see Elizabeth, very pregnant, and to hear her words when she entered the house were the visible, concrete signs Mary needed.

Hear a few of Mary’s words as she breaks forth in praise.

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. Luke 1:46-47

Later in in her song of praise, she says,

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. Luke 1:52

Mary is not boasting of being “humble,” she’s acknowledging that this great thing the Lord has done in her has been done to a nobody, an insignificant peasant girl, not the seed of an earthly king. With God, nothing is impossible!

I remember when God called me to write about lesser-known Bible characters. I thought, “How can I do this? I’m not a seminary graduate or even an author.” But the call to the task was very clear through more than enough signs. Half-way through the first book, I thought again, “Who do I think I am to complete this task, but He reminded me, “You can’t,” but with God nothing is impossible.

The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us.

May you joyfully celebrate with Mary and the angels and the shepherds as we all give praise that our Savior became “God with us.” And whatever task He calls you to do this next year, remember He will encourage you along the way for nothing is impossible with God. 

~ Joyce ~

What Color Is Faith?

 

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Faith. How many sermons, how many lessons or studies have you had on on this subject?

The usual definition of faith is given in Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen. (KJV)

Or if you prefer:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (NIV)

So we could say there is that element of “hope” where faith is concerned, not just wishing but hope that is sure and certain. Now to the question in the title—What color is faith? Let me ask you this—what color do you see here?

Blue of course, but as you see there are different shades of blue—navy, aqua, true blue, sky blue. So it is with shades of faith. Hope is one shade of faith.

When Moses and the children of Israel were in the desert, they had an episode of victory over an enemy. The victory went to their heads and they felt emboldened to complain (as did their forefathers) about the manna, Gods’s very provision for them. Not only that:

…the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Numbers 21:4-5

Direct blaspheme against God could not be tolerated. God chose to send venomous snakes among them. When the snakes bit the people, many died. Finally, they came to Moses and confessed that they had sinned. They said,

“Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” Numbers 21:7

Moses did pray and God asked Moses to do a strange thing.

“Make a snake and put it on a pole; anyone who has been bitten can look at it and live.” Numbers 21:8

Strange. Making images of people or animals had been strictly forbidden. This required great faith on their part and trust that Moses had this thing right.

Ah, another shade of faith, namely “trust.” Sure enough, if they were bitten, Moses lifted up the bronze snake and if they looked at it, they lived.

Fast forward centuries later to a night when Jesus had a private conversation with Nicodemus, the Pharisee. In the conversation, Jesus said, 

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, [that detestable, deadly snake] so the Son of Man must be lifted up, [on that detestable, deadly cross] that everyone who believes  in him [truly looks toward him in faith] may have eternal life. John 3:14-15

Thus the deepest shade of faith—belief. And Jesus offers, not just life from a snake bite, but eternal life. 

So there’s our shades of faith—hope, trust, belief. In keeping with our recent theme of gazing, not just glimpsing at God, I leave you with another quote from Tozer:

“We learn that faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the Triune God.”

~ Joyce ~

 

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

As I write this, my husband and I are having a get-away 50th anniversary celebration in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. One feels a certain serenity in these beautiful Smokey Mountains, a sense of the majesty of our great Creator. 

We came here several times through the years and often brought youth groups to conferences. Now here we are—full circle. We tend to reminisce on such occasions. I’ve considered how faithful the Lord has been to us in these years through many productive times and in those difficult life challenges.

Great is thy faithfulness, oh God, my Father. There is no shadow of turning with thee.

Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not. As thou hast been, thou forever will be.

Great is thy faithfulness, great is thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed thy hand hath provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

I came across an article the other day that so fit this topic. It came from the Glendale Star (a newspaper, I presume.) When I picked it back up, I smiled when I saw where it took place. Note the location.

A small congregation in the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains built a new sanctuary on a piece of land willed to them by a church member.

Ten days before the new church was to open, the local building inspector informed the pastor that the parking lot was inadequate for the size of the building. They would not be able to use the new sanctuary until the church doubled the size of the parking lot.

Unfortunately, the church had used every inch of their land except for the mountain against which it had been built. In order to build more parking spaces, they would have to move the mountain behind the church.

Undaunted, the pastor announced Sunday morning that he would meet that evening with all members who had “mountain-moving faith.” They would hold a prayer service asking God to remove the mountain from the back yard and to provide enough money to have it paved and painted before the dedication service.

That evening 24 of the 300 members assembled for prayer. They prayed for three hours.

We’ll open next Sunday as scheduled,” said the pastor. “God has never let us down before, and I believe He will be faithful this time, too.”

The next morning there was a loud knock on the pastor’s study door. When he opened the door, a rough-looking construction foreman appeared.

“Excuse me, Reverend, I’m from the construction company over in the next county. We’re building a new shopping mall and need some fill dirt. Would you be willing to sell us a chunk of that mountain behind the church? We’ll pay for the dirt and pave the area free of charge, if we can have it right away.

The little church was dedicated the next Sunday. There were far more members with mountain-moving faith on opening Sunday than there had been the previous week.

~ Joyce ~

Fear – What Are We to Do?

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

I read my niece’s facebook entry last week –

“I took my daughter to a movie today and immediately eyed the exit as one of my first thoughts was, ‘What if someone comes in shooting?’ “

She went on to reiterate other situations where she was becoming more vigilant, all the while realizing that many people across the world live in

“… constant credible terror. I wish the world were only filled with love,” she said.

I taught our Sunday School class at church last Sunday by beginning a new series called “Faith > Fear.” Oh that we would work toward faith greater than our fears. The lesson started in the beginning—the Garden of Eden. 

Yes, there was a time when all was “filled with love.” The beautiful garden was the picture of peace and harmony, but the tempter reared his beguiling head. God chose to make his creation in His image with the gift of choice. Eve chose to engage with the tempter, who opened her mind to doubt, her heart to desire, which led her will to disobedience. Thus the downward spiral began.

The terrorists of today, like those through the centuries, are not filled with love, but are driven by hate. The Almighty God, who created our universe and everything in it, sent His Son in human form so that we might understand this love. God IS love. Jesus said in a hundred ways, “They will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”

So how do we deal with this fear that looms in technicolor every time we see one more new’s story about 15 people shot here, 120 bombed there, a truck swerving to kill over 100 innocent people as they watch the fireworks, or 6 police officers gunned down. We had been seeing a report about every other month; now it seems weekly, or even daily.

I believe a part of the frustration and anxiety is the fact that we feel so little control. Too many people, too many nations, too many unknowns. When we feel we have no control, the fear begins to terrorize us. Indeed, we have little, if any control over these situations; we only have control over our feelings about it. John takes us right back to love.

… But perfect love drives out fear. I John 4:18

I struggle with facing my fears about current conditions. I know I don’t have the strength on my own. I read reports of Christians in war-torn countries who are being beheaded, burned to death, stabbed in front of their children, or drug into the sex slavery trade. Many of them determine ahead of time that they as individuals or as family units will refuse to denounce their Christian faith.

I can not come to that kind of faith without praying for God’s strength to help me face my fears, can you? It’s best we start practicing!

For this week, I close with this quote:

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the ability to forge ahead and refuse to be paralyzed by our fears. Dennis Wiles

FAITH > FEAR

~ Joyce ~